Jailbreak

The fence!

I had absent-mindedly given into Maggie’s scratching and whining at the backdoor while on the phone. Finishing up my phone conversation I put the phone down, took a big swig of my coffee, and remembered the hole in the fence where the rotted boards had started to fall away again. Our jimmy-rig hadn’t held up to the wind from the previous night.

Still in PJ’s and robe, I ran outside looking in all four corners of the yard, “Maggie! Maggie! Come here, Maggie! Treat? TREAT!”

She was nowhere in sight.

I walked over to the hole in the fence and called her for a few more seconds and then waited to listen for the jingle of her collar. Silence. I had forgotten to put on her collar this morning. It’s official, I’ve now turned into crazy, panic-ed lady in the red striped pajamas, blue robe and slippers. It’s noon by the way.

At this point, I realized the only hope I had of finding her is driving around to the other side of the neighborhood to see if she had gotten out from the neighbor’s front gate. I flung off my robe and pajamas and tried to yank a bra over my head and suddenly felt my head yanked back. The hook was caught in my mop-of-hair, bed-headed mess. Insert repetitive whispered expletive of your choice, here.

PJs back on, robe slung over my shoulders, bra dangling from my hair I grab the car key. I have never noticed how incredibly slow our garage door opened before? Priorities in order, call out-of-town husband and when I can’t stand the beeping anymore, fasten seat belt. Frantically fill him in, omit the part about being in my pajamas with my bra dangling from my hair. He calmly reminds me to roll down the windows and start calling for her and check to see if all the gates are closed in the neighbor’s front yards. After driving back and forth by the same four houses 5 or 6 times, I finally realize that all the gates are indeed closed and theoretically she’s still in the neighbor’s back yard.

Adam says, “Go home. Get treats, her collar and her leash.” I decide to take the robe off and put a sweatshirt on over my pajama shirt instead. It matched my new hair accessory better anyway. Running through the backyard to the hole in the fence, jingling her collar this time, I saw her through the neighborhood’s wooded backyard.

Expletive, “Stinkin’ dog.” I didn’t know whether to give her a fresh slap on the rear-end or hug her and let her kiss my face all over? I decided a confusing combination of both was appropriate.

After my heart rate had decreased and had a chance to warm up my coffee in the microwave I sat back down to finish my devotions that were interrupted with that distracting phone call.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.”

It had been at least 7 minutes into really asking, what do you want to show me here, Lord? How do I respond when I am afraid? I mean, I was really thinking hard. Suddenly I felt the bra hanging down against my back, and it all came flooding in.

Ohhh. Right. Got it. When I am afraid, I respond like a frantic, crazy person.

God bless my husband.

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Enough

The holidays have come and gone and I’m finding the pace of life to be a little refreshing. As scary as it was to step with both feet into 2014, a year that won’t hold any new memories with Brooklyn, there’s something about a new year that brings hope even in the aftermath of heartbreak and loss.

A few months after Brooklyn died I carried around her passing like a secret mark. Not in the sense that I didn’t want people to know, or that I was hiding it from people, but in a way that I felt afflicted by my story; I felt marked by it. I was a 27 year old woman who had loved and cared and lost. I had a baby, but she died. The truth of it didn’t really make it any easier to accept. And, I felt a strange sense of shame when I talked with strangers or met new people. I’m sure this sounds absurd to many, but maybe some of you out there know the feeling. I am still reminded so often of the bitter truth that marks my life, my story. But, I’ve noticed there’s a different tone in the voice that whispers and reminds me of my loss. It’s no longer wrapped in the question of whether or not I can really survive this pain. It doesn’t leave me feeling ashamed of this sad story that is now part of me. It sounds more like, “I have lost a baby, and I have survived.”

I guess I’ve let it in. I hate to use the word acceptance, because I don’t accept and will never accept what happened to Brooklyn. I don’t know if I’ll ever come to a place of making “peace with it”. All of those phrases make me cringe. That’s not what this is.

I believe, this is learning to live in light of hope.

And for me, that hope is that this world is not the end.

It’s just like after those first few tries on your bicycle without the training wheels. In the beginning it’s pretty rough, full of shaky handle bars, feet that feel a pull to be planted back on the ground with every wobble, and a face marked with worry. As the wobbles and falls become fewer and farther between, the tension in your face begins to ease, and you can feel the confidence in your legs as they more firmly and confidently push your feet on the pedals. There’s even a chance for a smile to break through.

I had to learn to trust that the living hope inside of me was enough.

My hope was enough to keep me steady when ‘the goings’ felt wobbly.

Maybe that’s why it’s listed last in the progression of attributes our suffering brings us in Romans 5…perseverance, character, and then hope. I had to practice walking into new situations and answering the question of whether or not we have children many times before it didn’t completely take my breath away. I had to force myself to engage other kids and babies again in order to let myself have a chance of feeling joy with kids, instead of it only reminding me of the future I would never have with Brooklyn. I certainly haven’t done this perfectly. I have “bowed out” from many baby showers, neglected relationships, and opted to sit on opposite sides of the restaurant than the family with a newborn. But each time I allow myself to look down into the stroller that passes me, or stop and tell a Mom or Dad how cute their new baby is, I feel stronger. In those little moments I’m practicing being the person I really want to be; a woman of character. Broken, but strengthened by a living hope.

Before I got pregnant with this new little one, it felt like the only thing that would make me happy again was being pregnant, or having some promise that I would get pregnant one day, and that our story would not just continue on this despairing storyline. But in reality, getting pregnant has not done any of that for me. If anything it has made me realize how unsatisfying anything circumstance can bring us really is. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly thankful for this gift and know that that’s exactly what this is, but I know that nothing about this new baby girl will take the pain of losing Brooklyn away. At times I can imagine, it might even make it feel worse. Because when, Lord-willing (I hate this phrase, but I don’t know how else to communicate the idea that I realize I have no guarantee of a healthy baby), I am nursing my new baby girl I will be reminded that I never got to do that with Brooklyn. Or, when she starts to respond through a smile, or a giggle it will make me stop and wonder what Brooklyn’s giggle might have sounded like. And, the depressing thing about this, when I really sit and think about it, is this could be endless. This could be a part of motherhood for me for years and years to come. Will my joy be  paired with grief and longing forever?

No! Not forever! Praise the Lord.

There will be a day when my faith will become sight.

And, that is enough to carry me through the parts of life that feel really uncomfortable when you have a child living in glory. It’s enough to motivate me to keep allowing myself  to experience the joy and the sorrow simultaneously, without getting frustrated about it. And trusting that the sorrow I feel may even make my joy deeper.

– Brooklyn (and Squirmy’s) Mommy

It Was Way Too Familiar

Last week while waiting for our flight to Steamboat Springs, CO in the Austin airport, I walked up after a coffee run to find my sister-in-law, Courtney, frantically elevating Corrie’s feet with luggage as she lay on the ground.  Corrie had blacked out and fainted.  Thankfully Courtney and a random bystander caught her preventing any injury from the fall.  Corrie was awake and sorting things out when I walked up.  I was confused, scared, and didn’t know what to do.  At this point, an airport employee had already called 911 and we were quickly greeted by 6 firefighters and 3 paramedics…it was quite dramatic.  The paramedics checked her vitals, but her blood pressure wasn’t returning to normal levels.  They determined that we should take an ambulance ride to Seton for further tests.  After a 3 hour stay in the Seton ER and a generous visit from Corrie’s OBGYN to check on the baby, she was released because everything was back to normal.  We ended up cancelling our family vacation, and Corrie had a check-up at her OBGYN’s office a couple days later and everything is OK.  Bottom line, Corrie ‘just’ fainted (which I learned is common during the 2nd trimester) and everything was a little more dramatic because she was in a public venue.  We are very thankful for this and that the baby is doing great!

For me, this experience was way too familiar, and I hated it.  After caring for Brooklyn and quarterbacking most of the medical side of things, it became clear to me that God’s grace has given me the strength to care for my family in this capacity.  I’m truly thankful for that.  However, I hated walking into this situation because it scared the crap out of me.  We were in the same hospital that Brooklyn was born in, there was another ambulance ride, I heard the exact same alarms that told us Brooklyn’s vitals were off tell us Corrie’s vitals were off, and we were back in a hospital waiting for answers.  I believe we often walk through life expecting results/outcomes based on similar experiences we’ve had in our lives.  Although reality was telling me Corrie wasn’t in grave danger, history told me that this wasn’t going to turn out well.  Thankfully it was different.

I’m still processing this experience and asking God “Why?”.  “You know what we’ve been through.  Can we please have an ‘event-free’ pregnancy?”  I really want a healthy family and an uneventful pregnancy for Corrie.  After walking through hell, I want a break from crisis and for life to be easy and pain-free.  Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen and there will be more pain.  The pain may not sting as much as losing Brooklyn, but it’ll be there.  If you know me well, I’m an optimistic guy…but I still believe this.

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to avoid pain.  I follow rules, am nice to people, and stay away from extreme sports…except for the time I almost drowned in a class 4 rapid on my first day of whitewater kayaking.  We can try hard, but it’s clear to me that none of us can avoid pain.  This is why Corrie and I trusted the Lord when we decided to continue growing our family.  The emotions that flood in when pain shows up will always be real and appropriate, but we choose to stay in the game.  We have to.  God has given us today, we have a vision for our lives, and a hope for a time when pain is gone.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4)

-Adam