I noticed the other day how lightly I walked in and out of the grocery store. And, at almost 8 months pregnant I certainly don’t mean weight-wise. I remembered feeling the heaviness of my grief when I was in public a year ago. A stranger would walk by with her two children and I would feel like I wanted to jump out of my skin! I was still wrestling with whether I could really live life carrying this pain I was feeling in missing Brooklyn, in being a Mom without her baby. My heart seemed to protest anytime I was somewhere that most people seemed in one piece, because I felt full of nothing but pieces.
I never thought I’d be the type who could name their baby without meeting them first. When we had Brooklyn, we didn’t find out her gender pre-delivery, but we knew that if she was a girl it would be Brooklyn, and if it was a boy it would be Shepherd. Even after she was born though, I had a hard time committing. I wanted the chance to hold her and see if it…fit. But, I didn’t really get that opportunity in the time frame I would have liked and had to trust that her name was just supposed to be Brooklyn.
A few days ago I was feeling a little anxious. I hadn’t felt little sister move much that day. And, logically, I know that some days babies are just more sleepy than others. They have lazy days just like we have lazy days, too. But it still sends me into a bit of a panic. Most times when this happens, I’m in the middle of my day and something distracts my attention until sure enough I feel that sweet little punch and I whisper, “Merci” – deep breath, or “Gracias”- deep breath, or “Danke” – deep breath. I get bored saying the words, “thank you”, like a knee jerk responding to a doctors’ plessor so many times a day….maybe it’s fun for Him that I change it up every now and again? Or, maybe it’s stupid? Whatever, that’s not the point. I was wanting some reassurance the other day, and I wasn’t getting it in the way I wanted. I decided to take a shower, because that’s what I do when I don’t know what else to do.
And I heard, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.”
And, I responded with blubbering and whimpering like a babe who had just surrendered the fight of an all out tantrum.
“Trust You!?!”, I said. “How does trusting You really make anything better for me here?”
I trusted Him with Brooklyn. We all know that didn’t protect me from heartache or hurt. Everything did not turn out alright.
How do I trust Him, with her? I mean, I know how to trust Him with my wreck of a life as a whole, big picture, story beginning to end kind of trust, but what about right now – in this moment? This is when I remembered that trusting Him looks a lot different than being granted a feeling that everything is going to be OK.
The story of Cain and Abel kept popping into my head. I had just recently listened to a sermon on worship and the offerings of Cain and Abel were discussed. I said, “Not applicable right now, Lord. I need something on trust. Whatya got on that for me, right now? I’m pretty desperate. I’m about to use up all the hot water, and it’s much less messy to cry in the shower – sooner rather than later would be great.”
Nothing. So, I just wore myself out and went to bed.
The next morning, guess what kept popping into my head again? Cain and Abel. What in the world? So, I decided to read through the story again and somehow I saw something new this time. If you’re not familiar with the story, basically Cain brings the Lord a bunch of fruits and vegetables and Abel brings the Lord a lamb. God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s.
Bottom line, Cain worked for his offering. He gave out of the curse. Abel, on the other hand, just received. He didn’t have to do much for that offering – just got the sheep together and let ’em do their thing. Cain and Abel were sons of Adam and Eve. The Earth is still pretty new at this point. This could have been the first time these sheep had procreated? Maybe Abel didn’t know if it could happen again? But, he gave anyway.
“How’s she gonna land this one….?” You hear in your head, in the Jim Gaffigan hot pocket voice.
Look at how much Abel had to trust to offer what He did? Cain had prepped the land, he’d tended it, he’d harvested it. They may have been the best of the crop, but He probably knew He could do it again.
Their offerings came from two different places of the heart.
When the Lord gave me Brooklyn I may have said she was His. But, my heart was holding on so tight still. I would have fought tooth and nail to get to keep her, as I’m sure any Mama would. But, ultimately I had to give her up. I was forced to give her up. Even though it was my reality, I still had to learn how to give her up day after day after day.
That was one type of offering.
But, this new baby. This is a new type of offering. A new type of trust He’s stitching into my heart. He’s asking me to give out of my uncertainty. To offer my heart regardless of the outcome. Which is cool and all, but it can be hard as a human being, whose nature wants to protect itself, to connect and bond with something you’re holding “loosely”. And I want to feel every bit of joy and connection I can with this babe! At times it can feel like cupping my open hand to get a drink of water but my fingers are spread apart. The water runs right through. I want to feel the weight of the water in my hand – the weight of the gift that it is today, and tomorrow and each day I have her.
Just a gushy Mommy side note: I’ve been so very aware lately that this is the only time she will never be far from me. Yes, she will be in my arms eventually, but at some point the nurses will take her away to get all their data down, I will share her with Adam 🙂 and family, and friends. She will nap next to me, and with some time in another room. She will eventually go on play dates, and go to school and move out and get married. But for right now, she can’t go anywhere. She’s all mine and I’m all hers in a physical, spacial sort of way.
Anyway, He showed me that I am trusting Him when I give her up to Him and receive the gift of her all at the same time.
And this, in essence, is worship. Giving back to Him what He first gave to us. So, for now He’s given me a new way to deal with the fear. A new place to cast my eyes. And very literally, new songs to sing.
This morning I asked Him what He wanted me to do with my time with Him. I was open to ditching the devotionals if there was something my heart needed more. And He told me to write Him a Psalm. So, I did the dishes.
Then I decided to be obedient and sat down to write Him something. And, I didn’t focus on the “art” of it all, as I may have in the past. I just told Him what my heart felt. And then I read it to Him, aloud. Twice, actually.
You are more real than I know
More real than I can see
More real than I can feel
You have re-programmed me
You have broken my bones
And reset me, stronger than before.
You have pressed the reset button on my heart
and put a new song in it
My eyes are new
You have painted my world with fresh colors and meaning
You have shown to me – myself
And rescued me from its destructive patterns
You are not far off
You have been nearer than the next breath I breathe.
You haven’t let me down in my greatest disappointment.
You haven’t left me in my bed, or a pile of tissues on the floor.
You have become my only hope, my only salvation.
You have put me under the heavy, rushing waters
And with Your strong and loving arms
You have held me there….
But not a moment too late,
You have raised my body – in Yours.
You let me breathe Your first resurrections breath, with you!
It’s been hard
Many days and nights have been terrible
I never thought I could be at such a low place
But You were on the bathroom floor with me
I certainly have wanted to die
For it to all be over with
To be in Heaven with You, and her
Sounded exponentially better than to be here –
Separated, without, corrupted, cast off.
But You have shown me that there is much I can give You here.
Much I can give you here that I cannot give to You there.
Things the angels long to give You.
Things they wish they could give You.
They watch in amazement and wonder.
You have turned my days from a waiting room
From a count-down of breaths
To notes in a song book
I want to waste them giving back to You what You first gave to me
You have given me a reason to keep breathing
My forever has already begun
My worship, Your praise will follow me
And echo its’ way into eternity
All I wanted was to find where my other darn ear plug went before I was settling in for bed last night. I dug through the drawer in my nightstand and found that little purple zip-up hoodie vest I loved to dress Brooklyn up in the most. I knew it was there. I had put it there just a year ago when it still smelled like her. I didn’t pull it out often, but sometimes when I just needed a little bit of her I would hold it close to my chest, and lay in bed and cry. I haven’t done that in a while. I was just looking for my ear plug.
This week, has been good. Really, really good. Surprisingly, I’m not measuring that by the amount of times that I have been sad or not sad but by the amount of times I have cooked dinner. Making dinner has been a challenge for me for over a year now. The idea of even deciding what to make was overwhelming, regardless of its’ ease. Going to the grocery store has also been a challenge at times, but the idea of pulling out the pots and pans, following a recipe, eating, cleaning up after – just felt like too much. When I look back on the past few months especially, I’m wondering what did we eat? But, this week I cooked 4 out of 4 nights. And, the strange thing about it all was I actually enjoyed it! I mean, don’t go sending me your weekly gourmet menus or anything, I am no Julia Child, nor do I ever aspire to be. Things like salad with some sort of grilled meat, an easy chicken chow mien, lettuce wrapped cheeseburgers, spaghetti bake….these are the sort of dinners that I call success. But, nevertheless, Adam and I sat down at the dining room table together, the last 4 nights, and talked about our day and shared a meal like normal, regular, ever day, stable, people. We have been beaming. We haven’t even sat down to watch a TV show together, all week long! We’ve been in the front yard with Maggie, reading books, chatting with the neighbors, attempting small tasks around the house. Pure wedded bliss. No, really. This is my version of happily Ever After – without Drew Barrymore and her fame based on the fact that she probably should have seen a speech therapist as a child on the reg.
So, on my ear plug hunt I was not exactly feeling a mini-melt down coming on. I finally resorted to grabbing a brand new pair from the bathroom and settled in to listen to music in bed before I fell asleep. That’s when I was hit with the memory and all the pain that came along. When the memories come, they’re so real. It’s like I’ve been put in a time machine, reliving it all over again. This started happening on a fairly consistent basis last week as it was leading up to the anniversary marking a year without her. I’d wake up and feel assaulted by the memories. I couldn’t ignore them. It felt like I was treading water in a choppy ocean, where every direction I turned resulted in a mouth of salty water from a wave lapping up in my face. I couldn’t ignore the pain. I told the Lord how I just can’t handle these memories. I told him I didn’t know what do with them? I told him I needed rest, I needed peace – now! And there on the bathroom floor littered with tissues, in my mind, I saw a pair of hands, and arms, and shoulders. I remember the shoulders the most clearly because they were sort of rounded, curved in towards me like they were bracing themselves for the weight. He told me that He can take them for me. That it’s Ok, he can handle it. It doesn’t make them disappear, it doesn’t make Brooklyn disappear, they’re still my memories but He can take them and I can have rest instead. Almost like a flip being switched on, I said Ok and I trusted Him with them and I laid down in my bed and I rested. Later that night I woke up and I was back in one of the memories I had given to Him just a couple of hours ago. But, this time was different. This time I didn’t feel the pain the way I had always felt it. This time, He was there. There wasn’t a moment, or an inch of the room we were in that He did not touch. He was holding it all in His hands – even then. He was giving me that memory back, but He was showing me a different side of the pain. He was showing me where He was in it.
When I curled into bed last night and thought about clutching the tiny polka-dotted purple vest to my chest – the way I did so many nights – desperate for her, I asked Him to show me where He was on those painful, despairing nights. He didn’t take the pain away, but He showed me that the pain I felt was evidence of a deep love that I was so incredibly blessed to have. Again, He showed me another face of the pain. But, He didn’t stop there. He showed me how this depth of love that Brooklyn has bored into my heart, is a new way, another way that I know Him. I think about that annoying song that us church kids, and adults, sang way too many times in the 90’s…I want to know you, I want to see Your face….blah, blah, yadda, yadda. I had absolutely no idea what that meant. But, it didn’t matter right? Because in a sense that was what we were all singing. We wanted to know Him, but we obviously had no idea what that meant. Because, we’re singing a freaking song about it. Seems strange to me now. If I knew what it really meant to know Him in those youth group days, I’d probably have dropped my guitar and run out the door. But for the present me, the present pain, the present longing there is nothing more satisfying, nothing that brings me more peace, than knowing Him – the love, the suffering and everything in between.
In the beginning
You were singing
In the end You’ll still be
Singing over me
In this moment
Your right beside me
You’re in the air that I breathe
You are an endless ocean,
A bottomless sea
All those angels
They are swimming
In this ocean and they still
Can find no shore
Day and night
Night and day
They keep seeing new sides
Of your face
You are an endless ocean,
A bottomless sea
If you’ve spent much time with me in the past couple of weeks (which I realize includes as many people as I can count on one, and maybe a half, of a hand) you’ve probably heard me utter something like,
“I can’t wait to trade in my calendar, one day.”
I think I may have alluded to this in one of my recent posts. I’ve been mad at the calendar lately. It acts like a rude finger pointing out the longing, not letting me forget, or ignore it.
The year anniversary of Brooklyn’s death is coming up on me at what seems like hurtling speeds. Each day the calendar brings me closer to the truth that a year, an entire year, will have past since I held her in my arms; since I kissed her chubby cheek. She has been gone 3 times as long as the time she spent here on this earth. But, I think that is to be continued in a different post.
This irritation with the calendar has made me stop and think, will the calendar really be something I get to give up one day?
Even though that thought has presented itself in a question immediately following my angst-y statement expressing my irritation of the calendar’s weighty-ness in our lives, my heart wasn’t really asking that question. It was one of my “thought interruptions”, as I like to call them. Sometimes they come as fastballs or screwballs, but it’s usually the curveballs that make me stop and listen a little closer.
If something brings me pain here on earth, certainly it won’t be in heaven, right?
And then, I looked at the calendar again and realized tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
It felt like somebody just told me my arch enemy has actually just made me dinner, cleaned my house, and brought me lots of presents.
Growing up in a more conservative Baptist church in NY we didn’t really observe the church calendar very closely. At least not in the way those – what I viewed at the time – legalistic Catholics, or those other mumbly liturgy observing churches did. Fast forward 15ish years and I found myself working at a theologically Presbyterian-influenced private school. In the early days, I just tolerated chapel and all of its non kid-friendly music and liturgical readings. Chapel seemed to bring out the worst in my kids, and in me, for that matter.
Five or six months into that first year at City School, one of the school buildings flooded and we were sent over to the Methodist church down the street to set up camp for the next few weeks until our rooms were repaired. Towards the close of our stay at the ever-so-kind and gracious Parker Lane United Methodist church our school participated in their Ash Wednesday Service. I had been to an Ash Wednesday service maybe once or twice before, but there was something about watching my kids engage this service that made me see the hymns, and the readings with different eyes. I felt this strong connection between the many Ash Wednesday Services held in the past, and the one I was participating in at that very moment in time. Many of the same things being said, prayed, sang, practiced that were observed hundreds of years ago. I remember looking over my shoulder to see an elderly couple singing and reciting the same words my 7 year olds were singing and reciting. I had never seen liturgy as the bridge that it can be more than in that moment. As my time continued at City School I began to love teaching my kids about chapel, what it has come to mean to me, and why we do things the way we do them. I cherished the chance to get to worship with my 7 year olds, both of us under the very same authority.
I still attend (and I use that word loosely) a church that would not describe itself as “liturgical” and they follow the church calendar in a more modern sense of interpretation, but ever since that Ash Wednesday service I’ve been making more room in my heart for the observance of these age-old traditions that the church has practiced centuries before us.
So here I am in this love-hate relationship. Yet another great duality to hold in this one heart I’ve been given.
Can it really be the calendar itself – that points out my pain AND the chance to engage an intimate time of reflection and communion with my King – that is my enemy?
Deep down I know it’s not really about the calendar itself. It’s time. More specifically, the passing of time. But reality is, time – whether passing quickly or dragging on – is not the enemy either. It is merely the thing in which I experience my greatest threat and anguish; death. The passing of time can hurt because of an existing separation, the impending inevitability of it, or even the death of moments that we just aren’t able to access in our finite bodies.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. I Corinthians 15:26
One day, time will no longer bring me loss, whether it be remembering what I have already lost or anticipating what I will inevitably lose in the future, time will bring me gain. The passing of time will lose any – and all – threat it has held for me here. Talk about a pillow to rest a weary head on.
For Brooklyn’s Memorial service we asked friends and family to record what they experienced or learned through Brooklyn’s life. In one of our college friends’ video she referenced Brooklyn being in Heaven where she didn’t have to count days anymore. I think about that often as we were so diligent to count her days here on earth. It felt like the only important thing we could do. We wanted to cherish and number our days with her, each of them carrying weight and significance. But, she no longer has to count days and neither will we (Psalm 9-0:12). We will experience the fullness of the Eucharist – deep communion – forever without the sting of separation and death ever again.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun
P.S. I realize this post made it sound like I have it “all together”, and that logic and a little bit of theology fixes it all. Nothing could be farther from the truth. But in between the deep pangs, sometimes, it feels good to step back and look at the big picture.
P.P.S. And for your Lenten listening ears try this on for size.
The lead singer of this band pulled off a Trains, Planes, and Automobiles-esque sort of journey just to sing at Brooklyn’s service for us. She is awesome. You can purchase her band’s stuff here http://www.pagecxvi.com./ and other places like itunes and such too…
Those dreadful boxes. The ones with the little numbers glaring at you. How I will be so happy to trade in my calendar one glorious day.
The memories of celebrating her 3 month birthday, which was also Valentine’s Day, has been nagging at me all week. I don’t know if it’s because my body was finally getting used to the newborn thing, or the shock had worn off, or I had learned how to live with the anxiety, or that I had stopped pumping and was sleeping more but I remember her 3 month birthday very well.
I have certain memories throughout her life that are just the, “oh yeah, I remember we did this on that day and the weather was like this…she was wearing that…” kind of memories. And there are many other memories that I remember exactly how my heart felt in those moments. Like when Adam came in as I was waking up from the surgery and told me that it was a baby girl. Or, a few days later when he told me they thought it might be Trisomy 18. Or, when I finally got to hold her on her 5th day of life. My heart was so full and so, so heavy. And, I remember how it felt to dress my little miracle up in the 3 different Valentine’s Day outfits she had. l felt so thankful that I was getting to do this. It was another holiday I didn’t think I would have with her.
I think Adam had gone to work that day, so it was just me and her….and the camera. I took WAY too many pictures. She was starting to put on some weight and I couldn’t get enough of her little chunk in the pink frills. And in between the photo shoots we did lots of snuggling. I felt really connected to her that day. My heart was getting better at allowing itself to feel the depth of the love.
I know this isn’t the most eloquently written post, and there’s not really a point to it at all. I just miss her so much this week. My heart just feels broken, and it’s hard to want to acknowledge this holiday without her. And, today marking 11 months since I held her in my arms just feels impossible. The year marker is less than 30 days away. I wish that I could press pause so it won’t come and hit the fast forward button all at the same time.
Here are some of my favorites from that day.
I love and miss my little Valentine.