Saturday, September 16, 2017

keep digging.

I have had a horrifying repetitive dream from the time I was a teenager until now.  It is very vivid and it's graphic details stay with me.  It's short and to the point.  Essentially in the dream, I am in an empty bathtub and I am beginning to shave one leg.  I start at my ankle, and I drag the razor directly up the center of my shin bone, digging so hard the entire way that I'm literally carving the skin as I go.  The blood is pouring and I can feel the blade scraping bone.  
And then I wake.  
And I just don't know why.

Currently I feel like I'm in a bathtub with no water.  Blade on bone, scraping and blood pooling around me.  With no purpose and no logic to any one thing that is occurring.  
But vaguely and quite sickeningly it seems repetitive.  
Sick baby.  (only not mine, I'm not comparing.)
Hard diagnosis.
Multiple defects.
Very Rare.
Complex.  
 No known cause.
No real answers.

Bone digging.  Bone digging.  Bone digging.
---
When Mabel was sick, even at her very sickest, I remember saying on many occasions to my sister and my closest friends that I was so sorry for them that they had to watch all that I endured and feel the kind of helplessness that they must have felt.  I was sorry that THAT was their role in my journey.  And that I realized, at times, that had to have been even harder than what I was enduring.  
And I even remember praying that I would never ever have to be on that side of things, because I just didn't think I could live through it.  I watched their eyes watch mine and for years, they had to ebb and flow with my grief and it had to have been the most emotionally exhausting and taxing thing to be a part of. 

I have had to watch some of my friend's go through divorces and other life changes that seemed impossible at the time and that alone was gut wrenching.  I'm not sure if it was because my heart was already so tender from grief and loss or because by nature I am the world's deepest empath, but literally it consumed my being and my ability to function was immediately restricted because I just wanted to be able to do something.  Anything.  The feeling of total and complete helplessness isn't something I have ever been great at feeling.

But obviously in the many years of anticipatory grief and now, true grief after Mabel died, I have done alot of work.  
Within myself.  For myself.  Because of her.  
And I am a better human now.  
So I thought that if the ground beneath me ever got shaky again, I really would be able to manage my emotions and rise up and still be well.   

When my sister was pregnant with August I was really struggling.
  My grief was peaking anyway and the sudden worry that I had over him consumed me at times.  I couldn't always articulate it and still, to this day, am not sure that if I tried, I would be able to explain to her or anyone what it was that I was feeling exactly.  There was fear there, of course.  But looking back I am not so sure it was a negative fear or even a fear that was there strictly based upon the fact that Mabel had died.  In hindsight I can't help but wonder if God was giving me some sort of insight or quickening in my spirit so that when it was revealed that Gus was so sick, I wouldn't be as shocked or devastated as I may have been thinking that he was completely healthy.  Granted I wanted him to be.  I prayed that he was.  But I think that the notion was always in my mind that we aren't exempt from something terrible happening so it was a true possibility that he could be unwell also.  
Maybe God stepped into my very tender heart and showed it mercy by letting me feel, very early, a little uncertainty so that I could begin processing that then and not now.  So that I could be strong now for my sister who needs me more than ever before.  
Maybe He is just that good and sovereign and perfect and Holy that He would reach down into my aching and busted and broken heart and whisper, 
"Hey there sister-mom.  She's going to need you soon.  So here it is, a little fear and sadness for you to work through.  Do it now and do it well.  You know how.  I trust you and I know you'll be good for her in due time..."

And here I am.  In due time.  
On the other side of things.  
In the shoes that she once filled for me.  And let me say with clarity to the world...
She filled them well.  
Perfectly, in fact.
She was the greatest for me and I will be the greatest for her.

She watched me suffer.  She watched me ache.  She watched me dance and praise and curse and sing and puke and eat and ache and live and die over and over and over again.  Sometimes daily.
And she watched my baby do those same exact things, both metaphorically and literally.

And even if I have to do the same exact thing...
I will.
Without a doubt.  No questions asked.
But I don't understand it.  And I don't want to.  And I don't like it.  And no, I don't think it's good or right or fair.  
 --
Late at night when my mind is racing and I need it to just be quiet, I have been watching a show that I love on Netflix.  A line from last night's episode may stay with me forever...
"The forces that led you here will lead you to go forward if you just listen..."
'Sometimes it's just hard to hear.'
"Yeah, well, usually people hear better when they're in pain.  Damned if you don't have a high threshold for it."

And I thought to myself how powerful that was.  
I still feel so much of this situation and I'm so thankful because my threshold for pain actually is really, very high.  But I also feel this strange peace and calm and I hear myself saying things to my sister that I wish I wasn't saying and I wish never had to be talked about or said at all and I realize that THAT may also be because my threshold for reality and pain is so high.  It's a very fine line to walk and I want to be very careful as I balance it.  
So I hope you'll pray with and for me as I do.

Because being on this side of things is all new to me. 
It's a place I never wanted to be, although once again, I wasn't naive enough to think I never would be...I suppose I just hoped I wouldn't actually HAVE to be.  
And especially just 2 years after we buried our girl.  
Yes, our girl.
Now, my sister is in the fight of her life for her boy.
Our boy.
The little boy who gave me courage and hope to love on.
He healed me and cracked me wide open.
And I want him to grow and play and live.
Desperately.
 ---
But I'm going to be honest here and say that after Mabel's diagnosis, I stopped praying for God to do specific things.  I was once part of a church that taught us to do so and then told me that the reason she wasn't being healed was because I didn't have enough faith or I had hidden sin in my life.  I heard the voice of God in my heart more clearly than ever say to me, "That is a lie."
I walked out that day and I have never been back.  Not to any church in fact.  

I realized soon after that, that praying in that way is in essence trying to change the perfect mind of the perfect God.  And I didn't want to do that.  I only wanted the perfect God to do His will inside of my perfect child.  I needed to change my perspective about what that meant, how it looked, and everything in between.  And when I did, it was transformational in my life.  The bargaining for hers stopped and peace poured out of me, knowing that the world's definition of unhealthy and well were different than mine and I was ok with her healing happening in the arms of Jesus and not here.  

Once again, I am not comparing my situation with Jeni's because they are not the same.  My thoughts are everywhere and it's all jumbled and it feels very erratic and chaotic and unjust in my heart but I am going back into the place where God lives and digging deep into Him and into myself to really listen and be still and know that He is still here and He is still good.

So what I was getting at was, I am not asking you to pray for anything structurally or physically specific over my nephew.  Though if you believe in that way or like to pray in that way, by all means, please do!  Otherwise, please continue to pray for the doctors, nurses, surgeons and all staff that is seeing him.  Please continue to pray for strength and endurance, peace and wisdom in Matt and Jeni.  Please pray for peace.  Total, incomprehensible peace.  

And on our end, please continue to pray for Nora and Braden because as you can imagine this has been unbelievably hard in ways I can't explain for them.  
We appreciate your love and support more than you know.
As always.
-------------
www.caringbridge.org
search: August Bassi.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Oh his heart 

My nephew, August, is currently inpatient at Lurie's Children's hospital in Chicago after a scheduled 2nd opinion visit last Thursday regarding his heart.

I have so much to say personally but for now, I'm just trying to breathe, think, pray, and mostly--breathe some more.

My sister started a caring bridge page.  I would feel so thankful to know you're visiting and praying over our little guy.
Visit www.caringbridge.org and search August Bassi to read more details about what led us here and updates as we go through the journey to come.

I almost cannot believe it, but I am leaning hard into God, as always.
He is good because He is good.  There is just nothing more to really say.  


Monday, August 21, 2017

A letter: as written to our landlord. 

"That home was 'a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or storytelling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all'.  Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness."
-J.R.R Tolkien

To simply say 'thank you' seems inadequate.  And the only way I know how to truly thank you and pour out my heart to you both sincerely and  properly is to do so in writing.  

We have called your house our home for 2 1/2 years now.  In that time we have named it many things.  At different times it has been affectionately called, "our house on the hill," and "our house of healing."  As you know, this is the home that we moved into, knowing that our youngest (and very sick) daughter would die.  We approached you in a time where she was suffering greatly and looking back I think you had to have known that this would be the place we would say goodbye to her earthly body.  I prayed hard before uprooting our family from the little house that we loved across town and moving us here but God made it really clear that this is where He wanted us for that season of our lives, and the days, months and 2 years to follow.  
Oh, if the walls of this little home could talk.  
They have seen more suffering, agony and sorrow than I believe most will ever see.  The walls of this little home hold so very much.  They hold the grief and anguish of a mother's fears, a sick child's wails, a disease that would inevitably strip her of her earthly being, the loss of innocence from siblings watching, the grace of a thousand tears covered by God himself-in spirit and truth.  They hold the memories of the days leading up to death and the begging for a Savior to come!  To rescue! 

And then, these sacred walls held us tightly as they wrapped us up, all together in such an intimate and perfect privacy as we watched our baby breathe her last breath and we all surrendered to a God that we know is the giver of life and the One who takes away.  
This house has held me as I've crumbled time and time again in total self destruction and mourning.  I have cried out SO loud in the ache and missing for my baby.  And yet, here we sit...alone and separate from the world around us, on top of a hill that seems it was made for the grieving family's cries.  And so in those times, I was free to do that without restraint.  
And it healed me.  

It has helped heal us all.  

We have rocked back and forth, back and forth, moaning for the love that sits in Heaven while we rest on the other side of the veil here on earth; so thin we can almost touch her but gosh, just not close enough.  The pain is so intense some days that all we can do is cling to the familiarity of this space and the joy it has also brought during these days of total empty sadness.  

Because there HAS also been joy.  
The two do go hand in hand you know.  They are intimately and delicately intertwined in our lives and in this little home we have experienced such a depth of both that it's almost unexplainable.  We became a family here, merging lives that were messy and broken and damaged and hurt.  Those jagged pieces of our hearts started to mend together and in the moments that make up our lives, redemption followed.  This family, the one who will pack up and leave this little house soon...
we are a family who knows the One True God.  
We may not be packaged up neatly with a pretty bow in a pew on Sunday but the Spirit of the One who directs our steps, He has revealed Himself in so many ways to us and has fulfilled our lives here.  He has been the center of it all.  
This home set boundaries for our life.  It gave privacy that we didn't have once before, and oh my goodness I am so thankful to you for that.  Thank you for allowing us the time and the space to be here and to just be.  Thank you for trusting me to take care of this house and make it our home and knowing that I would treasure it's spaces as my own.  I want you to know that I have.  

There have been moments here that will never be forgotten or recreated anywhere else.  
Mabel lived here with us.
And then she died here with us.
Chris and I were engaged while living here and then married while living here, too.
Both girls were baptized during our life here.
Braden found his passion in basketball on the concrete slab right outside our garage here.  Right where I could see and hear all of his triumphs, frustrations, victories and breakdowns.  
My brother lived with us for a few months here.
I found out I was going to be an Aunt here!
Nora started Jr. High here.

So many amazing big memories were made but the little memories in between the big ones are the ones I treasure even more.  
The Christmas trees cut (far too big for the living room), the campouts in the front bedroom (office/Mabel's room), Braden's first experience with stitches (thanks to a head through the wall) and so, so much more.  The hundreds and hundreds of cups of coffee that warmed my cold heart on days where I thought I may die of actual sadness.  The familiar feel of the carpet under me when I found myself curled up on it anywhere the crying consumed me.  The morning light and the evening light that pours in through the windows, providing the coziest feeling for our family to just breathe.  
Sometimes that's all we could do to survive these last couple of years.  The front porch that was just big enough for 2 perfect white rockers, both where I rocked my baby in her last days and where I have sat without her, feeling the ache and weight of her missing.  The flower bed that Chris and I dug and tilled and planted together just days after she left earth and the hope that it brought to me; knowing that together we would make it through anything.  We would fill this giant and desperate void with things that the earth provided our souls-a kind of natural nourishment.  
And we have here.  In this place we've called home.   

Thank you for allowing me to use your garden as my own.  
Looking back, in the days after Mabel died, if I did not have that space to go and dig my hands deep into the earth, I would not have survived, I am certain.  But I did have that, and I know God planned that long before we moved here as well.  You were gracious and kind and generous with so much more than just this house that sits on top of the hill.  You allowed us to use it freely and as we wished and I will forever and ever have such deep gratitude for those sweet, mercy-filled gifts that you gave me in a time when my heart was so incredibly needy and tender.  The sunflowers that grew tall toward Heaven at the end of that first summer without her will forever be etched in my mind as a symbol of encouragement...
"Keep your eyes fixed toward Heaven.  Follow the light.  I am here"
Thank you for allowing me to make this house uniquely ours.  
When I moved here, Mabel was screaming for hours upon hours most days.  She was in so much pain and discomfort and nothing would stop the crying.  But...
when I would turn on the music and sing loud, the crying stopped.  
It was miraculous.

But in the moments between, I was maddened.  
And among other things that helped to calm me, painting always seems to bring the most release to the mania.  
So, she screamed and I painted.  
And I painted.  
And though it may not be the color that you love or even what you would want, please know that I am forever grateful for those days that I got to paint while my very sick, almost 5 year old 'baby' smiled up at me in between screams from her bouncer while I painted.  

And when the job was done, I felt peace.  I felt like I had, once again, done something that would make this house feel like a safe place for our other children.  A place where they felt comfort and ease, seeing the walls a color that they were familiar with.  
This week, I am writing from the room that was once our girl's.  It now serves as an office and a space where our older children go to sit and feel her.  

With a lot of prayer and knowing that it is time (and everything working out just exactly the way it is meant to...because God...) we will be leaving this little house that we have called home and embark on a new journey as a family.

In all honesty, I didn't know if I would ever say that.  Chris and I moved here with the full intention of never moving the kids again.  They've endured so much and we don't want to uproot them time and time again.  We want them to live in stability.  But we also want to lead our lives with integrity and by trusting that the decisions we make are part of something far greater for our lives.  

I have left many homes in the past several years which is strange, really, because my parents still live in the same house I grew up in.  But, I think that my heart and spirit have always been more concerned with going where the Lord leads and never being so firmly planted somewhere that I miss whatever He has planned next for me (and in this case, for our family).   I don't quite know what that is just yet, but I do know that we all feel total peace about this transition and are very excited about what it might mean.

Without a doubt, I will miss the back country road that I last walked Mabel on (and still walk down frequently).  The butterflies greet me and it's like a kiss from Heaven, feeling her near.  I will miss the sunsets from behind the house and through the trees and the rainbows that stretch far across the front of our house after a summer rain.  I will miss the view from the front door; the one we saw the morning after her last breath when the clouds broke and peace walked through straight into our hearts.  I will miss the apple trees and the huge back yard where soccer was played and drones were flown.  I will miss it all, indeed.  Deeply, in fact.  But I have learned that our memories go with us wherever we go. Just like the Lord does.  Just like Mabel does.  

And so I leave this house feeling abundantly grateful for all of the gifts it has given to our family.  
In ways that I can't even adequately express but I sure hope I have come close.  Please know that we are grateful beyond explanation and will forever hold the most special and intimate place in our hearts for this 'house on the hill' that was indeed, our home.  Though it has not fully healed us as that will never happen on this side of Heaven, it has come close.  We move forward with great anticipation of what life holds for our future until we meet our Mabel again in Heaven and we leave this place with peace, knowing this home served us well and with such sweet purpose.

With great love and so much thanks,
Ramee.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Conversations with God.

 Inside of my mind all things are colorful.  There aren't boxes that constrain my thinking and by nature, my heart is split wide open.

Since I was a little girl, bare feet bopping and wild red hair blowing behind me, I have very clearly envisioned God.  I can see Him working in situations around me, through people in my life, and in specific circumstances.  I can vividly hear Him speaking, a voice so clear through my Spirit that it is as if I am never fully alone in my thinking. 
Even as a small child when I would play alone, I knew I was never truly alone.  
It's much different than just 'seeing the good' in a situation or being optimistic. 
 In fact, by true description, I'm actually much more of a realist than an optimist.

When I think of my life with Jesus, I can literally picture me walking-step by step through life in the palm of His hand.  And when I get to the edge of the palm of that hand I can feel very effortlessly, the palm of His other hand swiftly take the place of the first.  And the Lord repeats this pattern, never letting go of me. I have never in my life been afraid to take the next step because I was uncertain if He would reach out and catch me.  With total confidence, I have always been able to walk confidently toward the future, knowing that He was guiding my path.  Knowing that not only was He guiding it, but leading me on it, protecting me through it and upholding me so that I have never had to walk alone.

That doesn't mean I haven't been afraid.  In fact, almost every step of the way life has been peppered with one fear or another.  How could it not be?  We are human and anything that we do not know with total certainty can be frightening.  But at the end of it all, the thing that has carried me through the darkest of days has been my ability to recklessly and fully abandon myself to God, trusting that He is already sitting in whatever outcome awaits me.
Some simply call this faith.  
 
He is always in control when my world feels like it is not.
He is always safe when everything around me feels unkempt and scattered.
He is always nurturing when everyone else leaves me abandoned.  
He is always good when everything else feels anything but.
He is God.
 --
Dear little girl, you are about 12 years old right now and I am about to introduce you to another little girl who will become your best friend.  You don't know it yet but the first conversation that the two of you ever share (the one about addiction) will be the center of your friendship.  You also don't know it yet but in a couple of years the two of you will experience your first loss together (the first of many, sadly).  Ashley's brother will die tragically in a single car accident and your lives will change forever.  You are going to be afraid but I am asking you to lean into me now and always.  
I hope you hear me... 
 
 
Dear young girl...that boy that you married...he's going to go away to war soon.  A war that you don't even fully understand.  Will you move away from your family (even at their total displeasure) and have a baby 15 hours from them and do this very hard thing, all while trusting me?

And young girl, while you're far away from the people that you love and are tired from growing and having a new baby, will you please reach out to this one young man by the name of Jimmy and make sure that He knows me?  It's going to be important, young girl, because though you don't know it yet...that young man is also going to meet me soon.  He will die tragically in a single car accident and it will be traumatizing to your heart.  But when he does, I want you to rest in me, knowing that your purpose in moving far from your family was lived out in his life.  
So you're listening to me, right young girl?  You can hear me?

Sweet, young mama...
You're doing so great!  And now that your husband came back from war and is yet leaving again, will you trust me once more when I give you another baby to call yours?  I know your Nora, sweet 'light' is only 4 months old, but will you...just trust me?

Psssst....
Did you hear me when you walked into that big white house?  I thought I spoke clearly enough that it couldn't be mistaken.  I hope you heard me.  I said to you, 
"This house will be a safe place for many."

Sweet girl!
You did it.  That baby boy finally stopped crying after 9 whole months.  You trusted me.
What a gift you've been given.  
Two healthy children.....

Mama...
You have trusted me with everything.  At every twist and turn, you say yes to my call.  
Will you say yes when you come to know that this child that is growing inside of you now is only yours to love for a season before returning home to me?  Oh, I hope you'll say yes to that.  She will touch so many lives as she lives hers out on earth!  I cannot wait to see how you love her.

Sweet girl,
Your new baby CAN hear.  I know you are afraid.  Something isn't quite right, that's true.  But she can hear you when you pray over her and sing to her.  Keep talking.  She can hear you.  Even if only in her heart, she can hear you...

Oh sweet mama, 
Fly your friend here!  Her heart is breaking and she has a baby that needs you too.  You won't ever regret it.  There is more here for them.  I will provide.  I will make a way!  

Ramee,
Can you hear me through the cries and the noise?   I sense that you are afraid.  I am still here in the mess of it.  I am in the fear, too.  'They' will tell you that I am not but if 'they' say that then 'they' are not me.
 I am in it all.  

Hey girl,
Strong, brave, ferocious, fighting, advocating mama...don't do it alone.  Do not turn away from me.
Talk to me.  I am here.  Will you trust me with her surgery?  And her therapies?  And her life?  
Will you trust me without a diagnosis?  Will you trust me if you get one?

Hello there...
...one who has lost all control.  
Will you trust me with a broken marriage?  

Checking in,
You did it.  You found THE doctor.  You felt me there and you knew he was the one.  He's going to give you the diagnosis.  Are you ready to trust me knowing I will hold your daughter far longer than you will?  
Are you ready to let me do that?

Hey sweet girl. It's just God again...
Do you feel that peace?  
I thought so.

Do you trust me with disease?
Do you trust me with divorce?
Do you trust me when I tell you to love again?
Do you trust me in the middle of a seizure?
Do you trust me in the thrashing of toddlers in broken homes?
Do you trust me in total destruction of lives?
Do you trust me when people walk away?
Do you trust me in the choking?  In the puking?
Do you trust me when it feels really, far too heavy to bear?

Hey girl...
I know you are weary and yet said 'yes' to all of that anyway.  
Do you think that maybe, though, you could also trust me when I ask you to leave your home?  You know, the one I initially told you would be a safe place for many?  Now there is this other home that I know will be much safer.  It's right across town and I need you to just trust me in this.  
Can you?

Can you trust me when you have no money?  No earthly things of value?
Can you trust me when I assure you that I am also with you if you buy groceries with food stamps.  Can you just know I am there and that it is ok.  Humble yourself and know that it is all going to be ok as long as you know I am with you.

Hey there...
Just checking in again.  
Wondering if you noticed that she's gotten sicker?  I sense that you have and that you are afraid.  I also sense that you feel peace.  I am right here.  Can you trust me with her death as you did in her life?

This is hard, I know...
Can you move your family one more time?  There's this perfect house just right across town.  It has a room made just right for her.  She will both live and die there and you will all feel peaceful and whole.  It will be a home where as a family, you will feel me.  
Can you trust me?

I know it's hot outside and I know you're sick.  I know you're very afraid.  I know that you are tired and angry and very, very nauseous.  I have not left you and I am not afraid of YOUR fear.  I am in death too.  I created it all.  She will be ok and you will be ok.  I have not left your side and I will not.  I will not take her until it is time for her to die.  
Can you trust that it is time for her to die?
Can you trust me to come for your baby?
Can you trust me in the quiet and the aching and the sobs?  
Can you trust me in the breath and in the nothing-in-between?

You trusted me so much that you begged me to come for her.  And I came.  And you felt me.  And you have told the world of your daughter's entrance into my arms.  You trusted me with everything.
Time and time and time again with everything.

Can you trust me, though, with a new baby in your sister's womb?  
One that may not be quite, completely well?  
Maybe not very sick...but maybe not totally healthy?  
I can't quite say for certain...I'm just wondering...can you trust me with that?
After losing her, do you think you can trust your heart to grow again and love some more and maybe hurt a little and....
I know it's very hard.  
Will you just take my hand and trust me?

Hi there, auntie. 
I see you loving him.  And trusting me.  Just please know I've got it all worked out.  None of it is a massive surprise. And yes they locked eyes before his met yours.  He saw her and she assured him of your love.  Just know, he will be ok regardless.  I have him in the palm of my hand, just like I do you.  

Hey mama...
I see you sitting there now in that house that last held her body on earth; where you all were together as a family for the last time.  And I'm asking you again to trust me. 
I know it doesn't get easier and in a way, I'm sure that you feel many, many things about the extent of all of my plans for your life.  But you continue to say yes and I hope that you see the abundance of joy that I pour out over you because of it.  You are doing the hard things, and I am with you.
I am always with you.  
If I ask you to leave that house and go, will you do it? 
Will you trust me with a new plan...
one that moves your family forward in the direction that I would have you to go?  One in which you will continue to touch and change lives for me and for the Kingdom?

Oh....I know you'll trust me.  
I am thankful that you do.  
That you have learned to let it be what it is and to let me have the reigns.  Though your spirit is free, it has found freedom in me and that, my sweet young girl, is true wonder...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Turning 11 // Nora 

Oh Nora.
I dreamt of you.  
Long ago, I dreamt of you.  
What you would look like and what you would be like and what we would do together and what you would enjoy and how your laugh may sound and who you would become.  
 I dreamt of your crinkled nose and your squinty eyes.  They are identical in shape to my Nanny's and when you look at me, she is near-I can feel her.  You came to us just 6 months after she met Jesus and now I believe your souls must surely have crossed paths somehow along the way.  The veil between Heaven and earth is so thin, Nora.  You also share her freckles but they are quite unique to you as I never had so many and your brother doesn't either.  
They're so beautiful. 
 
 You turned 11 almost 11 days ago and I'm just now finding time to sit long enough to wrap my head around it.  Mostly because you keep me really, really busy.  
But also...you don't.  

At 11 years old you are really very calm.  You like to stay up late and sleep in later.  You like to lay in bed and be alone.  You like to listen to music when you fall asleep and you loved playing softball this summer but made it clear you really only wanted to play for fun (though you were actually quite good and could have been really competitive).  You are anxious for Jr. High and will do well because you enjoy academics.  You take pride in learning and are a naturally intrigued human.  You are smart.  And not just book smart but very, very wise.  And you want to be smart in all the right ways so you ask me alot of questions.  You don't want to be a naive 11 year old and I have stood by my word and honored my commitment to be honest with you in all things.  Sometimes our conversations get a little heavy for your age which makes me feel conflicted but I always remind myself that we are having those conversations because of your life experience.  It has been unique for an 11 year old and I cannot every compare.  You are opinionated and defiant and we argue alot.  I like your character but am trying really hard to find a way to teach you to keep those qualities and use them while also being respectful. 
 
 I have been watching Aunt Jeni with baby August and asking myself the age old question 
'Do I miss it?'
because I'm tellin ya, kid, everyone in the world adds more mom-guilt to every single stage of parenting by saying, "Just enjoy it.  You're going to miss this age more than anything and it will be over before you know it!"

So I'm digging into my heart and my mind and my spirit and I'm asking myself, 
'Do I really miss it?'

And the truth is, baby...
No.
I don't.
 
 Here's why:
When you were a baby I loved every second of that.  
Ok, no I didn't.  That's a lie.  No mom loves every single second of it.  If they say they do, they're lying too so don't believe them.  It's hard and lonely and scary and just...no.  
But, I did enjoy it.  
I was present in it. 
There were months and months that you and I shared all alone when you were just a tiny baby.  We lived far away from our family and your dad was gone and I soaked in all of you.  I prayed over you and danced with you and fed you and was completely and totally selfish with you and loved you in the very best way that I could love another human.  
I gave you the very best of me.  
 And I loved you the very best I could love you at that exact time.  

And then your brother came and I spent countless hours feeding the two of you and walking you in strollers and sitting on the toy room floor with you and cleaning up after you and changing you and pouring milk and giving snacks and turning on cartoons and giving medicine when you were sick and I gave you both the very best of me then, too.  
And I loved you the very best I could love you at that exact time. 
 
 And then your sister was born and looking back you were both still such babies and I was still doing all of those same things only I added a newborn into the mix and I think I was clinically insane but I was still enjoying motherhood in that very moment because I really wanted to be present with you guys and I cherished you then as much as I cherish you now and I always have and I always will.  

And I had dreams for us.  For you and me.
And your brother and your sister and our family.
And those dreams sorta got crushed in a multitude of really huge f'ing ways.  
And that could have blown the entire 'be present in the moment' thing out of the water.  
I could have stopped being engaged with all of you and I could have definitely stopped participating in this motherhood game and checked out.  I could have thrown in the towel and wallered in the dirty, yucky pit that satan tried to make of our lives.  
But I didn't do that baby! 

Because I love YOU and your brother and your sister more than anything in this world.
More than life.  
More than breath.
More than actual air.

I love you more than destruction and more than death and more than disappointment and more than shattered hopes and way more than destroyed dreams.  I loved you enough through ALL of that to stay right here with you.  To stick it out with you...
no matter how ugly it has felt some days.  
No matter how awful my attitude is, or how irritable we are with one another or how nasty we treat each other.  No matter how downright terrible it all has felt or may feel, I have loved you and will continue to love you enough to stand right here with you in it; feet planted firmly beside you in this life until we make it all the way through. Our boots may be cemented in the mud at the end of it all, Nora, but it will be you and me, hand in hand; side by side...
dirty boots next to dirty boots. 

Because I am your mom, Nora.  
And I dreamt of you, long before you I knew of you.  
Long before I saw you, heard you, or even loved you...you were a dream in my heart.
One that can't ever be shattered. 
 
 ALL of my dreams came true 11 years ago when you made me a mom.  

On this birthday I couldn't help but feel a little bit sad, of course.  You are growing and changing and you are going into Jr High and some of the memories you will start to make will stay with you forever as opposed to the childhood ones that may begin to fade.  That is both a really great and exciting thing and also a scary and sad thing (for a mom).  I feel scared in some ways that we will have this epic disconnect and I will miss something major and everything will separate our hearts.  I think that's a normal mom fear but I just have to say...I would give anything in the world for that NOT to happen.  I am worried that you will grow distant or that time will escape us and soon you will no longer want to share lipstick or for me to braid your hair.  I know that it's all normal and rather than feel sad about those things happening I just want you to know that I will embrace the time that you will share with me and I will not look back and 'miss' these days either when they are gone.  I will just be really, really present with you now so that we can enjoy them fully while we have them.  [And also, my lipstick is always yours to wear and I will always braid your hair]
 
I think I was a lot like you, Nora.  
I think I had a strong will and a smart mind and a fierce heart.  I think I knew what I wanted and I was going to get it no matter what it meant.  Sometimes though, that meant that I didn't listen to my own mom and I wish more than anything I would have just stopped and leaned into her for a hug and tried to hear what she was telling me.  I wish I would have eased into her with a little more gentleness and let her guide me with her experience.  I realize you may not do that either and so I'm just putting this out there for the world to see already:

I love you and no matter what you do in this life, nothing will ever change that. 
I will support you and stand by you and believe in you always.  
But I will absolutely stand in opposition of your decisions if they are morally or ethically corrupt and already, at 11 years old, you have a pretty good idea of where you stand on most things.  

I'm really proud of you Nora.  
You are beautiful inside and out. 
I am here for you always.  I am your safe place.  There is nothing you can't tell me and nothing in the world that can separate you from my love.  Don't ever forget that, ok?

Happy Birthday, baby.  
You'll always be my first baby and for that, I am so grateful.

Love, mommy.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Late night ramblings of a tired auntie.

Sleep is hard.  
And around this time every night I find myself doing a dance between wanting to go lay down but knowing that I really can't because the dark will meet my thoughts and I in the center of the ring and I'm ill prepared for battle.  There's a certain kind of mania that transpires between 11 pm and 1 am.  Now, if I fall asleep just exactly at the right time, the time where I feel my body relax and my mind wander toward nothing, then I am usually free to sleep, captive no more to the darkness (at least for that night.)  If I miss the few-minute window, though, I am trapped in this awful place where PTSD induced insanity takes over and the night becomes wicked.  The dark and I argue while the bed and I wrestle and it's worthless.  The entire thing is worthless.  

I try really hard not to write when it's late. Actually I've been trying really hard not to write at all lately.  But there have been so many things happening and life has been so busy that there just hasn't been time.  And also, the thought of trying to emotionally process through all of what has been happening, is currently happening, and is about to happen and then try to write about it-well that just seems impossible if I'm being totally honest.  
So I've put it away somewhere inside instead.  

And sadly, I feel ok about that for now.
Because I'm coping and living and grief just has to wait.
---
I'm completely in love with my nephew.
He is at home on oxygen (like I mentioned before) with a couple of heart defects that leave us hanging from week to week, wondering what each appointment might bring and what each new echo may show.  His life has thrown me back into this sort of fight-or-flight mode that I had forgotten I was capable of living in.  His mama, my sister, is doing incredible and I am so proud of her.  She is learning and giving herself so much grace and looks so beautiful doing motherhood.

Being on this side of it all is hard.
But I always knew it would be and quite honestly, I think any of the girls would tell you that they heard me say multiple times in Mabel's life, "I just hope I never have to be on your end of things, watching one of you watch me in pain..." 
Because that's just a whole new kind of hurt and helplessness and it's really quite tormenting in an indescribable kind of way.  I already *knew* that and basically begged God throughout Jeni's pregnancy not to put me in that position because I didn't feel that I would be strong enough to be good enough FOR her.  But apparently I was wrong as usual because He is God and He knows all and He controls our lives so...

Anyway.  
I'm remarkably proud and honored to be part of his story, wherever it lead us. 
I wondered for 9 whole months how I would feel when I saw him.  
Would it be too painful?  Could I love good enough for him or would the ache for my own baby be too big, too strong, too consuming?  
But ultimately, the wild and wicked truth of this life is that you only ever work toward healing your own broken heart by choosing day after day to 'love on' time and time again, despite the fear of loss, the vulnerability of death, disease, sickness, or whatever else will come in this life ... because it is going to. 
So yeah.  I took one look at him and I knew that this heart of mine COULD stretch once more.  It had made room that I didn't know it had...yet again.  I literally looked down at my own chest and basically said, "Thanks for pulling through, I wasn't sure that you were gonna do that."  And it wasn't a choice.  I just fell in love.  But, I had done a lot of grief and healing work to get to a really good emotional place too, and I'm so thankful I had taken the time to do so.
--- 
Gus' heart has made me think a lot about my own heart.  
The holes in it, the narrowing and the shape of it.  The literal and metaphoric meaning of it all.  
God is using him to stretch me, like maybe the Dr's will have to do inside of him in the future and I'm learning every single day something from this baby who is just now 7 pounds.  
I look down at him and I know now, regardless of what his life looks like, how healthy he is according to this world's standards--he was created for a purpose and he is already living it out.
August is living out his life's purpose now and he will live it out fully no matter what.
I can see everyone that way now.
Now that I know that my own baby did so.  
Now that I know that in 4 years 10 months and 29 days she lived out every single moment of her intended purpose on this earth, FULLY...I know that each of us are doing that the second we are born.  
And that....
THAT is extraordinary.  
August Sawyer is extraordinary.
And complex.
And handsome.
And lovely.
If you are up late at night like I am sometimes and you happen to think of him and his sweet mom and dad, please just say a prayer over them.
Specifically?  That he would continue to grow well (which he is!) and also that both of his arteries would begin to do so as well!
---
Thank you for your kindness, as always.  We appreciate your love and support for our family.  Over and over again in the last couple of weeks I have heard things like, "Gosh you guys just can't catch a break!" or "Oh my, why you guys?  This is just so much for one family!"  
And you're very right.  It IS alot for one family!
The old me would have very much felt the same way, but when I look into this babe's eyes all I can think now is, "why NOT us?  We get to have these perfect souls sent straight to us and that is the most incredible and humbling gift I could ever imagine!"
I feel so grateful. 
And my goodness, I just love him.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Happy birthday Mabel \\7//


This year, as always, we celebrated our girl in all different shades of yellow.  
She turned seven in Heaven and we wanted to shine so bright that she could see our love!

We miss her so...every day, and we never want a year to go by without celebrating the ONE day that changed everything for us.  When Mabel was born, our hearts suddenly knew a different kind of love and we are forever grateful.  

All the tiny people who loved her asked me (at different times) if we would be letting balloons go or lighting lanterns.  We did let off balloons and we did try to light a yellow lantern (but it was too windy and that failed-luckily it was just Chris and I and none of the kids saw it).  But this year we also incorporated a really neat new tradition.  We created prayer flags.  The kids enjoyed it, they turned out beautiful and when the wind blows in the fall air I know that their dreams, wishes, thoughts and prayers will blow through the valley, from Mabel's tree and up into the Heavens. 

Celebrating another birthday without her here was excruciating.  Honestly, I just don't have the words anymore to try and explain it.  The days leading up to the actual day are always the hardest, by far and on any actual big day of celebration I end up feeling very surrounded and cared for.  I am so grateful for the people who love us, are steadfast, have been long suffering and continue to walk this journey hand in hand with our family.  It isn't easy and we are incredibly lucky to have the kind of support that we do.  All in all, her day was just as special as I knew it would be and I feel really thankful that she is loved as big now as she has always been.  Most always it feels like she is right here with us, exactly how it should feel...
 
 We love you, sweet girl.