Monday, December 9, 2013

Jesus, Name Above All Names

As I sit to pray and reflect this morning, my eyes are drawn to a Christmas tree we have in our living room.  On it, we have placed some of the many names of Jesus.

*Holy and Righteous One
*Prince of Peace
*Bread of Life
*I Am
*Good Shepherd

As I look closer at the tree, I realize someone has placed the name Jesus at the very top of the tree, hanging from the star.  At first I chuckle, but then I am impacted by the place where one of the kids put His name.  I am amazed at their understanding.  This morning, as I gaze at the tree and praise God for how I have experienced each of the names of Jesus in my own life, the song Jesus Name Above All Names comes to mind.  Apparently, the child who placed Jesus at the very top of the tree agrees that His name deserves the very top.

All this makes me wonder if I am putting Jesus name above all else.  How easy it is to get distracted by all the Christmas commotion.  My prayer for myself and for all of you is that this Christmas season, we would each put Jesus at the very top, that we would give Him the highest place in our lives and as we do that we would experience more of who He is.

Another song comes to mind...

On the altar of my praise, let their be no higher praise
Jesus Son of God
You laid down Your perfect life
You are the sacrifice
Jesus Son of God
You are Jesus Son of God!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Making Worshipers

Recently, Steve and I took a parenting class through our church.  One of the biggest things that impacted me about the class was a point they made that as parents we are teaching our kids to be worshipers of God.  You see, everyone worships something:  themselves, people, jobs, possessions, status, etc.  My kids will worship something.  My desire and God's desire is that they worship the One True God.

The other day, as I was thinking about Charlotte and our current baby boy growing inside of me, God put a peace in my heart.  I wondered for a second why God would choose to create Charlotte only to take her immediately to be with Him.  Then it hit me.  God created us to worship Him!  It doesn't matter to Him if we've lived an actual life on this earth or if we bypassed earth and head straight to worship Him in Heaven as Charlotte did.

When I think of this little boy growing inside of me, I have such a great peace.  God has been so gracious with me in giving me such a calm, peacefulness throughout this pregnancy.  It is simply amazing.  I trust and know God has created this new being with a specific worship Him!  This little boy will either learn and practice worshiping God here on this earth as part of our family, or he will be placed directly in front of the Lord's throne worshiping God in Heaven.  Although I desire nothing more than to have him here with us on this earth, I know that one day I will worship our mighty God for eternity with him in Heaven, as I will one day do with Charlotte.  

I really need to watch my perspective to make sure I am not focusing on the temporal, the here and now, and make sure I am keeping my eyes on my King and the eternal.  And in the mean time, I have a huge responsibility, teaching my other children how to be God worshipers.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Waiting in Faith

Last week I had an appointment with a Perinatologist to have a detailed sonogram on the baby and get his opinion if we could do anything to prevent another still birth.  I am so happy to say that this new baby looked great to them.  Nothing caused them any concern.  I am also happy to announce that the new addition to our family will be a BOY!  As big of relief finding out the baby is healthy is, I am more fearful now than before I had my appointment.  You see, Charlotte was perfectly healthy up until we lost her too.

As I walked into my appointment, I was a nervous wreck.  When the nurse took my blood pressure, she asked if I was nervous (understatment of the day).  I told her yes and asked her if my blood pressure was high.  She told me the numbers and it was extremely high for me.  All the while we were in that office, I couldn't stop shaking.  As the sonographer did my sonogram, I don't think I breathed much.

The doctor came in after the sonogram to give us the results.  He was very kind and gentle.  He asked us about what we had come to learn about Charlotte's death.  He had already read the reports, so he knew.  I think he just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.  He continued to talk about the reasons we may have lost Charlotte.  To the best of our knowledge, an infection entered into the uterus, thus making Charlotte sick rapidly and ultimately killing her.  I showed no sign of infection.  When all the pathology tests were done after I delivered her, three types of bacteria showed up.  The doctors still act like her loss is a bit inconclusive, but they do believe the infection had a part to play.  To try to assure that this doesn't happen again, I will be tested for infection at around 34 weeks and I will then be monitored very closely with appointments with my doctor at least twice a week until I deliver.  After my testing is done and we know approximately how big the baby is at that point, we will discuss if early induction is an option.

Wow, this has turned into a medical blog :) After we discussed this, the doctor asked me how I felt about this pregnancy...if I was afraid.  That is when I lost it.  I told him that yes I was scared, but that I firmly believe God has a plan and a purpose for this baby's life just like He had for Charlotte's life.   I told him no matter how I felt, I trusted God and that I know God is faithful.  I pretty much choked it out.

As we walked out of that office last week, I was thankful for the pictures of our healthy son and excited to know him more, but also leaving that day, this new pregnancy and walk of faith became more real than it had been before.  Now we knew it was a boy and we could stop calling him "it" or the "baby."  I came to the realization that day that this entire pregnancy is going to require so much more faith than I have ever had to have.  I realized each and every day and sometime each and every moment, I will have to cling to the promises of who God says He is and what He does is good.  I realized last week that the next four months aren't going to be easy, in fact they are going to be rather hard.  This week as I am digging deep in the Word, I am reminded that God goes before me, He is with me and He is working in my waiting.  So, in this time of difficult time of waiting, I cling to my Savior, who is ever present, who is working all things for my good, and who has a plan in all of this too great for me to comprehend.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I Never Saw Her Eyes


I have a wall in the basement that has close ups of all of the kids.  Steve gave me three of them for Mother's Day back when the three boys were quite little.  With each addition to our family, I buy another frame (I'm still amazed that Hobby Lobby still carries the same one after all these years) and add a close-up of the new baby to the others.  

After we lost Charlotte, I wanted to add her picture along with the rest and I finally got around to asking my friend, Jacque, to order me one.  Charlotte's picture came in last week.  I had mixed emotions.  I was excited to add it to the rest since she is a part of our family, but it also hurt to see her.  

As I got around to hanging the picture, I cleaned the frame and placed her photo inside.  I took it to the basement and arranged all the photos to fit Charlotte's on an empty nail.  After I placed it on the wall, I stood back to look at them.  It broke me.  It hit me as I looked at all the pictures of the other seven smiling kids, that I would never see Charlotte smile.  Her eyes were shut tight, while the other children's eyes sparkled with joy.  As I looked at their eyes, I realized I never even saw Charlotte's eyes and that I never would.  I broke down crying.  

This whole mourning thing comes and goes.  It is the strangest thing.  I am realizing more and more that I will have a lifetime of mourning the loss of what could have been and what we are missing by not having with Charlotte here with us.  I suppose that is why some call mourning a dance.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blessings in the Movements

So, yesterday I hit the 20 week mark in this new pregnancy.  It is amazing how quickly the time is going.  Half way there, wow!  I am beginning to feel the baby move more and more.  Today while I was driving, I felt a little nudge.  This nudge took me back to when I was pregnant with Charlotte.  From the first time I felt Charlotte move inside me, I was amazed.  Having so many children has taught me to not take the little things for granted.  I've seen many seasons of pregnancy, babyhood and childhood come and go so very quickly; some quite challenging and some simply delightful.  I've tried to embrace each season with comfort in the knowledge that it will soon pass and not wanting to miss anything in the moment.  I know that many of those moments, as rough as they were, I would never get back again.

I never grew tired of feeling Charlotte move inside of me.  Feeling her stretch, poke and move always brought me amazement.  Even though I have had many pregnancies, I was in awe each and every time I felt my daughter.  I always felt humbled and honored that God would chose to bless us with another life.

Feeling this new baby's life also reminds me of the day I no longer felt Charlotte's life in me.  This brings fear and a whole load of other emotions.  Even though my heart still aches with missing Charlotte, I am so grateful for the nine months I had with her.  I am thankful for the bond we created each and every time I felt her move. That is how I knew her.

This new pregnancy reminds me to not take any of this pregnancy stuff, no matter how challenging or uncomfortable, for granted.  I know well that it may last all too short.  Once again I am humbled and amazed that my God would love me enough to bless me with another life.  I look forward to knowing this little one through his/her kicks and movements just as I knew his/her sister.  Even though this pregnancy requires more faith than any of my other pregnancies, I know God is good and He has a plan for this little one's life, the same way He has a plan for Charlotte's life.  I can trust Him!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Charlotte's Story

Our daughter, Charlotte Faith was stillborn at one day shy of 38 weeks in utero.  This is her story...

It was February 7, 2013 and we waited in the waiting room of my doctors with a bit of fear.  We nervously chatted.  We never could have imagined how much our life would change in the next few minutes.  That morning I sat down purposefully to feel Charlotte move in my stomach.  Zoe stood next to me and we both had our hands on my tummy.  We chatted about her baby sister and how Zoe could help mommy with her sister.  We talked about how much we loved her and how Zoe could hold her.  Zoe talked to Charlotte.  She said, "I love you baby Charlotte."  I was certain, or so I thought, that we both felt her move.  We both smiled, satisfied.  We may not have really felt her.  I guess we will never know.

It gives me a huge pit in my stomach to write about what happened next.  When the nurse called me back to a room, I told her I had been feeling less movement of the baby.  She said the doctor would probably put me on the monitor, which I also assumed would happen.  I really thought it would all be okay.  The doctor came in and I told him about lack of big movements.  He came over with his doppler to find her heartbeat.  Every other time, its been there the second they put the doppler on my stomach.  This time it was silent.  UGH!  He poked and searched, and searched, and searched.  The expression on his face kept falling.  I think we all knew.  He said we would go across the hallway for a sonogram, but that he wanted us to be prepared because it didn't look good.  I went to the bathroom quickly and prayed, "Help me, God!"  It was a desperate plea.

Trista did my sonogram and as soon as she put it on my stomach, I saw a straight line along the bottom of the picture where the heartbeat should be and there was more silence.  We knew our baby was gone.  She was inside of me with no life in her.  Trista and the doctor continued with the sonogram looking for some sort of explanation as to what could have happened to our sweet Charlotte.  They could find absolutely nothing wrong.  So, why?  It filled our heads.  How does something like this happen?  What went wrong?  We sat there thinking we were just ordinary people and things like this don't happen to people like us.  They told us we may never know why.   What we do know is that this didn't surprise God.  Even before He formed Charlotte inside of me, He knew every day He had planned for her before any came to be.  He who began a good work in Charlotte will be faithful to complete it.  We believed this that day and we still believe it today.

After a few minutes Trista left, leaving us alone weeping with my doctor.  He was just as surprised and hurt as we were.  He stood shaking his head.  I don't really remember what he said.  I think he prayed with us.  Steve later told me my doctor was praying for us through the sonogram.  I didn't remember that.  Then he too left us.  Steve and I sobbed and held each other.  I was shaking.  I ran to the bathroom and threw up.  This was all real, although it didn't seem real at all.  We sat in that room and cried for what seemed like forever.  Trista came back in the room and gave me a hug saying how sorry she was.  It began with Trista and for the next days and months friends and family would look at us with a longing to help ease some of our hurt and knowing they couldn't.

I didn't want to leave the office because it meant this was real and that I had to move on and I didn't want to move on.  I didn't want to take the next steps I knew we would have to take in the next few days.  I was scared.  How could I do this...all I would have to do in the next hours, days, and weeks.  How could I move on from this office?

The car ride home was the longest, quietest drive ever as we tried to process all we had just learned.  I think we both couldn't really believe what we now had to face.  In a matter of a few hours, our life as we knew it changed forever.  Now we faced telling our children, parents, siblings, friends and church of our great loss.  We faced labor and delivery only to deliver our lifeless daughter.  We faced planning a funeral for our daughter.  We faced still being parents and moving on, with empty arms where our daughter should be, when we felt life should just stop.

When we arrived home, the house was silent.  My mom had Nate and Zoe at her house.  One thing I didn't mention about the day is that it was a gray, gloomy, rainy day.  It wouldn't be sunny again until the day before Charlotte's funeral.  A prayer that God answered "yes" to.  Steve and I sat and cried.  After a few minutes of being home, my mom came with Nate and Zoe to put Zoe down for her nap.  As she walked in, she could tell by the look on my face something was wrong.  I cried as I told her, barely able to get the words out.  She sat down with me and cried.  I think Steve called his dad and told him.  He didn't want to call his mom while she was at work.  Then we sat down and waited for the kids to get home from school.  Time that day moved so slowly.  It almost stood still.  After the kids got home, they wondered why dad was home.  We had them all sit with us and we told them Charlotte had died.  We held each other and cried and cried.  We texted our closest friends and small group members and called the doctors office to make arrangements for induction.  It was decided because of scheduling and so I wouldn't keep getting pushed back that I would go to the hospital for 10 p.m. that night.

We spent the rest of the afternoon snuggling with our kids, calling and texting our family and friends with what was going on.  I mostly just laid on the couch crying and resting on and off.  Andrew, our oldest, was already planning on going on a retreat with his youth group the next day for the weekend.  We talked it over with him, giving him the option of staying home or going.  He said he still wanted to go.  So, for a bit that afternoon, I tuned back to my mom reality and helped him pack for his trip.  Late in the afternoon I talked with our pastor's wife.  I remember telling her that I needed Jesus to carry me through the days ahead, because I couldn't do any of it on my own.  She prayed with me.  Little would I know that my request would be answered many times over.  My mom finished up our dinner and by that time Steve's parents and friends were here with us.  I really don't remember much of what we talked about.  I just remember that time that day went so slowly.  I do remember giving instructions to our moms on getting the kids to school, picking up Andrew the next day and getting him to church to leave for his retreat.  At some point, I gathered everything I would need for the hospital.  I choked out tears as I packed a sleeper, hat, onsie and the blanket I made for Charlotte.  These were all things I had planned to bring Charlotte home from the hospital in.  Now I would bury her in them.

That night I also talked or rather cried with my sister on the phone.  I also talked with a friend that experienced the same sort of loss twelve years earlier.  She encouraged me and helped me to understand a little of what to expect.  Putting the kids to bed that night was really rough.  We all cried.  Everything was so scary for all of us.  I even wondered if I would be here to ever put my kids to bed another night.  Our moms decided that they would both stay the night with the kids and that they would do something fun with the kids the next day, Friday.  We had already decided to keep all of them, except for Andrew,  home from school.  After the little kids were in bed, we left final instructions with our moms, they prayed with us and we left for the hospital.

It was the weirdest feeling to pull in the parking garage and walk up to labor and delivery.  We had been anticipating this moment for weeks.  This should be a happy time, instead we were filled with sorrow and fear.  So many questions and fears filled our minds.

Just like in the past with all of my labors, we walked directly up to the labor and delivery floor.  I walked up to the nurses desk and told them my name.  The doctors office had already called them and scheduled me, so they were expecting me.  They walked me over to a room toward the end of the ward, probably so I would be away from the rest of the laboring moms and to shelter me.  I don't think the floor was very busy, and I don't remember hearing even one baby cry.  I am so grateful because I think that may have pushed me over the edge.  Again, God prepared the way.  I went through the motions I was used to doing when being admitted; using the restroom, changing and climbing into bed.  Being that this was still a room in the labor and delivery ward, my room had everything in it they would need for a healthy delivery and baby.  In the corner was the baby bed with the lights and the scale over from that.  Steve and I commented on why that would be in there, since we wouldn't need it.  Another thing in the room were the monitors.  This time I wasn't strapped up to any monitors.  There was no heartbeat to be monitoring.  Although, a brief thought went through my mind to ask them for a sonogram just to see if they had missed something earlier in the day and maybe I could wake up from this dream.   Deep down I knew the truth and so I didn't ask.  A little while later my nurse came in.  Her name was Taylor and she was a Godsend.  I had prayed earlier in the day for just the right nurse to care for me.  I prayed a compassionate, kind and caring nurse.  Taylor was exactly that.  She lead us through the paper work like normal, except this time the paperwork wasn't normal.  She asked us questions about autopsies, taking photos of Charlotte, funeral homes, chaplains, etc.  In the middle of the paperwork, Taylor asked the baby's name to which we replied, "Charlotte Faith."  Taylor gasped and I remember looking at her questioningly.  She was trying to hold back tears and she then explained that Charlotte was the name of her niece that passed away.  Wow!  I knew that very second that God had answered another prayer.  He put Taylor in our room for a reason.  She finished up with us and left the room to call my doctor to find out what the next steps would be.

Just after she left, our good friends Jason and Tina walked into our room.  It was around 10:45 at night and we didn't expect them.  We were so grateful.  They held us and cried with us.  It was so sacrificial for them to come to us.  Next, I think the nurse came in to start my IV and to draw blood.  Man, did they ever have to draw blood.  She drew about 15 vials of blood.  For my normal deliveries they only draw about 3-4.  She said they do all the extras to look for reasons as to why we lost Charlotte.  At about 11:30pm one of our pastors came in to pray with us.  Again, we couldn't believe that people would love us so much to come out after normal bedtimes.  Later we would find out that many people were up praying for us all night long.  God has blessed us so much with His body!

It was around 12:30 a.m. when they gave me medicine to help soften my cervix and to help start contractions.  Steve made up a cot and we both tried to get some sleep.  I was able to rest well for about an hour and then contractions woke me up about every 4 or so minutes.  I tried to sleep for another hour only to be interrupted every 4 minutes.  At around 2:30, my nurse and the resident came back in to check my progress.  They decided now it was time to start pitocin.  I knew I wanted an epidural before they did that, so they called for the anesthetist.  As with all of my other labors, I hate the thought of and actually getting epidurals, but I do love the benefit.  I start to panic each and every time.  It is just not nice having a needle pierce into your spine.  The nurse told Steve he would have to leave the room while I got my epidural.  I began to freak out a bit.  This happened one other labor.  Steve and Jesus are my strength to get me through the process of getting epidurals.  When the anesthetist came in, Steve asked her if he could stay, explaining to her that he had been present for six other epidurals and had been fine.  She agreed and had him sit in a chair about 4 feet from me.  My nurse, Taylor, stood in front of me letting me squeeze her hands.  I just remember breathing deep and saying, "Jesus, help me, Jesus, help me" over and over again.  It took her quiet a while to get the epidural in the right spot and eventually Steve stood and took over holding my hands and encouraging me.  The anesthetist was the greatest as well.  She was so kind and compassionate toward me.  She talked with gentleness and soothing words.  She sort of mothered me.  Even after I delivered Charlotte she went and got me warm blankets.

After I had the epidural, Steve and I were both able to sleep for about an hour.  My doctor came in around five o'clock and broke my water.  He and I both knew that once he did that it wouldn't take long.  We are so blessed to be friends with my doctor and his family.  When he was in our room, I asked him if he thought his wife, Lynette would come.  He asked if I wanted her there and I said yes.  He was happy and said that she wanted to come.  He left the room to call her.  It helped me to know that she was coming.  I just didn't know what the next hours would hold and who or what I would need.  I'm guessing it took about a half an hour and then I started to feel the baby move down and feel the urge to push.  We called the nurses and the doctor back in.  Just like all my other deliveries, the room filled with people preparing for what was to happen next.

My delivery with Charlotte was easy, thankfully.  With all of my other deliveries, I have great anticipation leading up to the delivery of my babies and I just push with that anticipation.  With Charlotte's delivery, I didn't even sit up.  They weren't calling for me to push.  I just did it all in my own time.  I think I probably pushed about three times and she was out.  I sobbed.  The work was over and this was real.  Steve once again cut the cord.  The room was so silent.  The doctor and the nurses were silent.  We were silent.  The baby was silent.  The nurse asked if I wanted Charlotte up on my chest.  I wasn't prepared to see her yet.  She then said she would take her and clean her up for me.  Lynette came in around that time.  She came in and held me as I cried.  I had the hardest time looking over at Charlotte.  As the minutes went on, I gained courage and I would glance toward the bed where they were cleaning her.  She was so still and quiet.  Finally, the nurse brought her over to me.  It took the most courage I have ever had to have to reach out to hold her, but once I did I fell in love.

Charlotte was so beautiful.  Her hair was dark brown and it looked like it had swirls in it, like little curls.  Everyone asks who she looked like.  Did she look like one of her sisters or brothers?  I always struggle with that question, because to me she looked like Charlotte.  She is her own individual.  She may have had a few characteristics from a sibling, but she was unique.  She is my Charlotte.

For the next couple hours, we held her, kissed her and rocked her.  Our nurse took her to give her a bath and dressed her in the sleeper I bought for her months earlier.  It was so tiny and white with little pink heart on it and the feet looked like ballet slippers.  She also wrapped her in the blanket I had made for her.  Our dear friend Jacque (a photographer) came to take photos of Charlotte.  Jacque photographed her after the nurse bathed her.  She photographed her getting her footprints.  Jacque then came back to my room and photographed us while we held Charlotte, while we wept over her, while we smiled over her and explored her.  The night before we went into the hospital a friend called and asked if we wanted photos taken of Charlotte.  I wasn't sure I did.  So many things filled my mind.  I wondered if it was wrong to photograph the dead.  If it would be weird.  I even wondered if I would want to have pictures of Charlotte.  About 11:30pm after we were admitted in the hospital and after Steve and I discussed it, I texted Jacque to see if she would come once Charlotte was born to photograph her.  She said yes!  The biggest thing that lead to my decision to have Charlotte photographed is that I didn't want to regret anything.  I knew we would only have a few hours with her here on earth.  Now that I look back, I am extremely grateful I chose to do it.  As time goes by, my memories may fade on what Charlotte looked like, but now I have some gorgeous photos of her.  Whenever I miss Charlotte, I can pull out her photos and gaze at her beauty.

Steve held her a lot.  He just walked around the room with her talking to anyone who was with us.  It seemed normal...just like when we had our other babies.  Steve remarked later that he probably freaked people out how he just casually walked around with her in his arms.  It felt natural to him.  We cherish those hours we had with her.

Around 9 a.m. or so, we knew it was time to say good-bye.  It was growing obvious death was taking over and we knew we had to let her go before we ruined the good thoughts we had of her.  We held her and cried over her again.  I don't really remember what was said or if we even prayed.  I kissed her head, told her I loved her and we called the nurse to come get her.

That was it.  The hardest part was over.  Now we had to begin our journey of living our life without our daughter.  I was moved to a room in antepartum.  I'm sure to spare me the happiness in the mother/baby ward.  I had a tiny private room once again with a leaf and a tear drop on the door to alert people coming into the room of our sadness.  We asked the nurse to put a sign on the door for no visitors.  We ordered breakfast and ate.  Then we spent the rest of the day sleeping, crying, talking, and holding each other in bed together.  Steve met a friend out in the hall while I was sleeping.  The only other visitors we had were our pastor and his wife.  I am so thankful they came.  We prayed together and God was honored.  We decided we would go home that evening.  My doctor said it was okay.  There was no need to spend the night in the hospital and sleep in an uncomfortable bed (especially for Steve).  We just wanted to be home with our kids.  We left the hospital at around eight o'clock and grabbed some dinner to take home.  My friend Christy stopped by when we got home and we sat with her and shared our story.

I slept well.  It was great to be home again.  We spent the morning just relaxing with the kids.  Friends brought us breakfast and we just sat with them and talked and cried as the kids played.  That afternoon the director of the funeral home came and we started the arrangements for Charlotte's service.  Steve and I both felt like we were so young and so inexperienced at the whole death/funeral thing.  We joked that the director probably laughed later on at our silly, naive questions and comments.

In the days that followed our release from the hospital, I slept great.  Sleep is a way I shut out the world around me and God blessed me with incredible rest.  For about a week or so, I would wake really early weeping.  It would hit me all over again...another day to live without my baby.  Steve would just reach over in bed and pull me into his arms.  And I cried.  And I prayed.  I would eventually get up and I would write.  Writing became my release.  It brought me and still brings me healing.

Those days up until her funeral were kind of blurry.  We just went about getting arrangements made and trying to still be parents to our other seven kids.  My dad, sister, her husband and their kids from Michigan all came.  I am so grateful for their presence.  The kids were happy to see their cousins, which was a good distraction for them.  My sister and I work really well together.  She has the ability to step right in and do what needs to be done.  She even took the girls shopping for dresses for the funeral which proved to be no easy task :)

We had scheduled Charlotte's funeral for Tuesday, February 12.  On Monday my sister looked after our kids while Steve and I made final arrangements at the funeral home, ordered flowers, and ran errands.  We stopped for lunch while we were out and at about the same time, we both noticed the sun. It was a gorgeous day.  It was the first time we had seen the sun since the day before we lost Charlotte. We thanked God for the blessing of the sun and also prayed that the next day, as grim as it would be for us, would also be sunny.

The next morning we had our usual challenge of getting the nine of us plus my sister's six all out of the house early.  Just as we were getting ready to leave, Steve's mom stopped by and said she was taking Steve's dad to the hospital due to some severe abdominal pain he had been having for a couple of days.  This added a bit more stress to an already stressful situation, especially for Steve.  All through the loss of Charlotte, we felt God had blessed us because when one of us would feel so weak, the other would be strong and carry the weak one.  This morning on the way to the funeral, I made up my mind.  Today it would be me.  When we arrived at the funeral home, our pastor met us there and prayed with us before we went in.  We really weren't sure how the kids would respond upon seeing Charlotte's casket. Steve and I had already seen it (empty) the day before and I got my emotions all out then.  It was so tiny; too tiny.  Well, the kids really surprised us.  They just walked in and we explained what would happen to them.  We walked around with them and read all the flower cards.  Then they looked at us and asked if they could go to the playroom to play.  Once again we are amazed at the resilience of kids.

Once the visitation began, we lined up.  Steve, myself, my dad, my mom, Andrew (which totally surprised us, as we never told him he had to stand with us.  He chose to.  Such a brave thing to do as an almost 13 year old), and my sister and her husband.  For the most part we held it together, we were surprised at how many of Steve's co-workers showed us.  The occasional close personal friend had me breaking down momentarily.  We were blown away by the support we felt from friends, the church (both past and present), neighbors, and co-workers.  During this whole time since losing Charlotte, we wondered who we were that people would love and support us so.

The funeral began as soon as the visitation ended.  Our immediate family took up the entire front row of  elegant chairs.  Two of our pastors shared from their hearts and from the Word of God.  I was surprised at how often they would look directly into my eyes and talk to me.  They knew the hurt I was feeling and they were speaking to my heart.

We were sitting with our whole family including the youngest children.  As you can imagine, it is hard to keep little ones quiet in a serious service, even if it is their sister's funeral.  Steve and I found ourselves wrestling and shushing them during the service.  At one point, while one of the pastors was sharing, Zoe stood up and walked straight up to the front, past the pastor to the picture of her sister Charlotte.  We had set our scrapbook pages earlier for people to write notes or scripture on.  Before the visitation began we let the kids all write a message or draw a picture to Charlotte.  Zoe wrote her name. As she marched to the front, she was asking, "where my name?"

After the funeral service, we drove to the cemetery.  Our kids thought it was cool we could drive through red lights.  We had a lot of discussion over that.  We had only immediate family to the cemetery.  At the cemetery, Pastor Tim said a few words and prayed.  Then I sat.  I felt frozen.  Before me sat my daughter's coffin and the hole where they would bury her.  How could I leave her?  Steve held me as I I sobbed.  Everyone eventually left, leaving Steve and me alone.  I still felt frozen.  Steve prayed for us.  Eventually, I was able to walk away.

We drove home where our small group and friends had prepared lunch for us.  Once again so thankful and so blessed.  I loved having everyone around, but I also felt like I wanted to run and hide.  All this socializing felt like a cover-up for what we just experienced.  I think that is something I have learned about grief.  Life goes on.  For example, we had to eat and I certainly wasn't in any state to feed us all.  But with all the life moving on, it feels as though it tries to hide the fact that there was a loss.. a very real loss.  As you can see from some of my other writings, I have struggled with this the entire time.

After everyone left, I just laid on the couch in my own little world.  I decided a nap would be a good idea.  And honestly, I don't remember the rest of the evening.

The next day began our new normal.  My sister, her family and my dad left.  For the first time, we were alone since we lost Charlotte days before.  We kept the kids home from school for one more day, just to have some family time.  This was a really hard day.  The high from making all the arrangements and preparation was over.  We were now left with not being as naive as we once were.  We were now left learning how to live the dance of lives filled with grief.  It may seem like the end, but for us it was just the beginning.

Six Months

Well, here we are.  Today has been six months since we lost Charlotte.  As I sit here this morning, I struggle with what to write.  I decided to go back and read Her Story.  I haven't read it all the way through since I've written it.  It brought up so many memories and pains.  So, instead of struggling with words today, because sometimes there aren't any.  I will leave you with her story.  Just for warning, it is quiet long.  So grab a cup of coffee and a box of tissues.

I will also leave you with the prayer I prayed this morning.

"Lord, Thank you for Charlotte - that today we can celebrate her and her being safe with you for six months.  I miss her, but am comforted in the fact I will see her again.  Use her and our story to bring you glory and honor.  Amen"  

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Still Holding on to Faith

So I know its been ages since I've written.  I can blame it on a couple of reasons.  Number one the kids have been home from school for the summer and I can't seem to find time to write.  Number two, I've been struggling to write.  I haven't known what to write about.  Frankly, the last six months have been the roughest period in my life, ever.  I have not only been learning how to grieve the loss of our daughter, but I have also been dealing with some chronic health issues.  In the last three months, my life has been completely overwhelming.  Its been dark and cold and lonely.

I think when we lost Charlotte I thought that would be the hardest thing we would ever have to bear, at least for a little while.  In dealing with my health that kept getting worse, I cried out to God.  "Didn't I bring you glory in my response to the loss of Charlotte?  Why this?  Please heal me."

In the midst of our grief and my health issues, Steve and I seemed to drift from each other.  I felt as though God had abandoned me and now I felt as though Steve had as well.  I can truly say that the reason Steve and I drifted apart was because we were both learning how to grieve.  Neither one of us had experienced grief or loss before.  We both grieved in different ways.  Each of us not knowing what to do or say to the other.

Before I scare any of you, we are doing well now.  We talked to a pastor at church, who encouraged us that what we were going through was normal for marriages and escalated by our loss.  From that point, things began to turn around.

In mid-June, we also found out some exciting news.  We are expecting another baby.  We are ecstatic.  But this news, in itself has thrown a few curve balls.  Now we were not only dealing with grief, health issues and marriage issues, but we have a new baby.  This opens wounds and leaves lots and lots of opportunity for fear to creep in.

So needless to say, these are some of the reasons I haven't been writing much.  Right after we lost Charlotte, I began writing our story.  A few months ago I decided I wanted to have it done by six months.  Next week it will be six months since we lost our baby girl.  I am almost ready to publish her story.  I sat and worked on it today and am still amazed at the emotion that fills me as I write.  Here I am sitting in a loud coffee shop typing as fast as I can type with tears rolling down my cheeks.  I truly pray that our story will help and encourage others in their own losses.

As for us now,  we continue to walk in FAITH.  Having faith that God will heal me, faith our marriage will continue to grow stronger,  faith we will hold our new baby in our arms in January, faith we will know God more from the experiences we have here on this earth, and most of all we have faith in the hope we have that this life is temporary.

"So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Thursday, June 20, 2013

On Why I'm Running a Triathalon

So, in three days I run my first triathlon sprint.  I don't want to lie, so I'll be honest with you.  This week has been hard.  Training for this tri has been hard.  My body has felt wrecked at times.  I've wanted to quit too many times to count.

The swimming part of the tri has really stressed me out.  Up until yesterday, I didn't even know what my approximate swim time would be.  I have been afraid my time would be double what I said it would be when I signed up.  And I'm a rule follower so that stressed me out.  I swam late last week and felt so discouraged, I wanted to quite the tri all together.

The other morning I remembered a verse that has been very precious to me the last four months.
"Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10
This verse says it perfectly.  I decided then and there that I would pray this verse over and over in my head during this swim portion.  Especially, the part about Him upholding me :)  I'm not doing this race alone, even better I'm not living my life alone.  My Savior is right there with me giving me strength.  What a promise!

Then on Monday night when my sister and I were heading out for our bike ride, I fell.  My foot got stuck in my toe clip and over I went in my driveway.  (I was moving by the way :)  When the adult body hits the ground, it hurts.  I skinned my elbow and my knee and I am bruised up and down the right side of my body.  As I lay on the ground, half laughing and half crying, I thought "this is my out.  I won't be able to do the tri now."  But, no.  It wasn't that bad, thankfully.  I needed to press on.  I got on my bike and we rode our 13 mi and it was good.

After sharing my fears of the tri over and over again with Steve, he recommended I sit down and write out why I am doing the tri.  I've shared briefly in a previous post.  So, why am I doing this triathlon?  I am doing it because it is a way I can bring Him glory.  I am doing it because He was crushed for my sins.  He was beaten for me.  He was willing to lay down His life so I could have eternal life.  It brings tears to my eyes as I write this.  If He was willing to do all this for me, than the least I can do is swim, bike and run for Him!  My body may feel broken and weak, but His body was truly broken for me...better even yet...for you...for all of mankind.  Wow!  He is so worthy!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."  Hebrews 12:1-3

So, even though my life has been hard these past four months and I never would have chosen this path, God is good!  He has been faithful every step of the way.  I can only trust that He will continue to be faithful.  As for Saturday, I will run with perseverance the race before me.  I run for Charlotte, so she will know that even though I still long to have her here with me, I love Jesus more.  She understands.  She is standing in His awesome presence right now.  One day I will be right there with her and we will be praising Him together.  But for now, while I am still here on this earth...I will run with His strength to bring Him glory.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Making My Burden Lighter

For the past four months, I have had this huge burden hanging over my head.  This burden is writing thank you notes to all the many, many people who have blessed us in countless ways since we've lost Charlotte.  Beginning just days after we lost her, I had my mom buy me a journal and I began writing down the names of people and the ways they blessed us.   These blessings range from meals, gift cards, flowers, gifts, notes, laundry, to memorials.  It had been my greatest intention and desire to sit down and write to each and every person how very touched we were at their thoughtfulness and support.  But, here I sit almost five months after losing Charlotte and I still have a list of names too long and overwhelming to count.  As I sit today and try to scratch out a few more "thank you" notes, I cry.  This isn't what I want to be doing.  I do long for everyone who has blessed us to know how much their thoughtfulness has meant to us, but I don't want to write it.  I still want to hold my baby and writing thank you notes is just another reminder she is not here with me.  

A few months ago at my small group, I mentioned to my small group ladies how burdened writing thank you notes was to me.  They told me I should be exempt from writing thank you notes under the circumstances.  They all told me not to write one to them.  I poured out my heart to them, thanking them for the way they carried us with actions and prayers through the most difficult time we have ever faced.  I cannot even explain the burden I felt lifted from me that night, knowing I didn't have to write them.  

Alas, this blog.  I know I have already written to some of you, but to others the notes haven't come.  I want to seriously apologize.  I will not be writing more thank you notes.  We are so blessed to have such an excellent group of friends and family.  We have been completely humbled that so many would chose to love us in our darkest hours.  I realize that writing thank you notes is probably just a burden I have placed on myself, but in the earlier days it felt like the thing I should do.  But now, I am giving myself grace to just say THANK YOU now and let the notes slide.  This doesn't mean we don't appreciate everything you have done, it just means I still need to heal.  I need to protect myself from making obligations on myself that drain me.  

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."  --- Galatians 6:2

I only pray that in the future that I would love others well in the same way that others have loved us so well.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Three Months and a Mini Tri

It is hard to believe it has been three months since we lost our beautiful Charlotte.  At times it feels like it has been years and at other times it feels like we never had her and then lost her.  Although, we had her for only a short time, I still miss her.  I think about the things we will miss.  Three months is when Steve usually begins bonding with our babies more.  Three months is the time when I begin to feel like my life will someday be more normal again.  After all, having a newborn is a lot of hard work.  Around three months, they sometimes begin to sleep longer.

Losing Charlotte has taught me quite a few things.  One of those things is about fear.  I've come to a realization that I have now faced one of the worst things I could have possibly imagined, losing a child. The only thing worse than that for me would be to lose Steve.  Although losing her has broken my heart and brought me such utter anguish...too hard to put into words, it has made me stronger.  It has given me a greater faith in God than I could imagine.  I have never before experienced His great goodness He graciously poured over me continually.  How He carried me through the whole experience.  How He helped me stand when my legs buckled beneath me in sorrow.  I am so grateful for His continual presence and the encouragement He has given me through His Word.

Back to fear.  Since going though the tragic loss of Charlotte, its made me braver.  I look at things that once would scare me to death and weigh it in comparison of losing my child.  Usually, it weighs nothing in comparison.  I say to myself, "if I survived and was made stronger through losing a child, than this _________ is nothing.  Why not give it a go?"

One of those fears is swimming.  Shortly after losing Charlotte, my sister said we should do a triathalon.  I said okay.  Crazy me!  So we decided a month ago to try a mini triathalon (1/4 mi swim, 15 mi bike, and 3.1 mi run.) in June.  It has given me something to work for, something to distract me, a goal.  The thing is... I don't swim.  I can keep myself from drowning, but frankly I am scared to throw myself into a pool and expect my body to swim 1/4 mi. without drowning.  In comparison to losing my Charlotte, it should be cake. ((insert chuckle))  I am going to train and I am going to do that tri.  I'm going to pray that God gives me at least a fraction of the strength He gave me three months ago.

God and my daughter have taught me that life here on earth is so temporal.  So, why not take some leaps of faith.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Surrender of Control

This week I headed to Houston, Texas to visit my Irish friend, Glenda, from England.  Her brother is marrying a Texan this weekend.  I intruded on their time since its been a year since I've seen her.  Plus, its a good chance to get away and relax a bit.  

As we were landing into Chicago, we were flying in the middle of some huge clouds.  As I was looking out the window and seeing nothing but white, I was struck by the fact that my faith in God is a lot like flying in a plane.  There I sat with no control of our plane as we were headed through the thick whiteness.  I had to sit back trust the pilot and his gear to get me safely on the ground.  I could have sat there and worried about it and fretted, but what good would that have done.  I wasn't in control of the situation.  I sat in the back of the plane with my seatbelt buckled and let the pilot worry about getting us safely to Chicago.  

On the second flight of the day, we started feeling quite a bit of turbulence.  The pilot came on the speaker and said, "I'm sorry about the ride and that it is making you uncomfortable.  I promise…we are quite safe."  Isn't that how it is in our own lives.  Each one of us experience the ups and downs of life and sometimes the violent shaking aka turbulence of life.  Life isn't always a smooth, comfortable, enjoyable ride.  Sometimes we have to go through the turbulence of life to get to the destination God has for us.  But, just as the pilot reassured us we were safe, God whispers in our ears, "I love you.  I've got this.  You are safe with Me."  

As I pondered trusting the pilot, I thought about how my God is even bigger, even stronger and how He has a better navigation system than my pilot or the airplane had.  I could worry about what will happen in my life, but what good will that do.  I have no control over it.  My worrying doesn't change my circumstances. 

I just need to sit back, buckle up and enjoy the ride.  Knowing and trusting that my God has a plan for my life.  A plan to prosper me and not to harm me, a plan to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  I need to trust that through the storms and through the turbulence He is Lord of all.  

Monday, April 15, 2013


For Charlotte's funeral, I picked the song "Blessings" by Laura Story to be sung by our pastor's wife.  For a couple weeks before we lost Charlotte, I had been hearing it on the radio a lot.  Now that I think about it, it was just another way God was preparing me for what was to happen in our family.  After we lost Charlotte, I knew I wanted my pastor's wife to sing "Blessings" and "Give Me Faith."  About a year earlier, she had sung "Blessings" in church with her daughter.  When I called her to ask if she would sing, I couldn't remember the name of the song.  I was like "the one you sang about a year ago and it has the word tears or something in it."  She knew immediately and she said yes!  

When I first picked "Blessings," I picked it because of the chorus...
Cause what if Your Blessings come through raindrops
What if your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
The Lord knew I had shed many, many tears and I needed to feel Him near.  I needed to feel that even in this just maybe it was His mercies disguised in pain.

As time went on the days and weeks after her funeral.  I would play the song and it took on a completely different meaning for me.  One day I heard it as I was driving home from Costco and just began merging onto the highway and I began to weep.  Not so good when you are accelerating up to 70 mph.  The verses are what made me weep.
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things
I wept out of conviction.  I'm guilty.  I pray those things.  I pray His blessings on myself and over my family.   I pray protection for my kids while they sleep.  I pray for God to take the hard things out of my life.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't believe it is wrong to ask God for these things.  But sometimes I pray selfishly, for God to make my life easy and comfortable rather than praying for his will.  This is where my weeping stemmed from.  How dare I think that I should know how my life should be or end up, that it should be problem and pain free.  As the song says, its about His love for us.  This love that "loves us too much to give us lesser things."  The part that really brought me to my knees in repentance is...
We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe
Ugh!  Do I believe Him in His goodness as I say that I do?  Do I believe He is who He says He is in His Word?  Or do I throw it back in His face and say, "You're not with me because I don't feel you,  because my circumstances are tough and because they don't seem to be getting better"?   What if each and every day He is giving me His mercies?  Be it the hard days or the easy ones.

For me, His mercies in disguise in this time of mourning are knowing Him more for who He is.  I love the line toward the end of the song that says, "what if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life, is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy."  That's it!  That is exactly what He has taught me through this struggle.  I long for Him!  In this world I'm gonna have trials, but it makes me long for Him and Heaven all the more.
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  Philipians 1:21
This song has changed my prayer life.  I still get caught up in the "all about me prayers," but "Blessings" has made me think twice.  I want my prayers and my life to be "all about Him and His glory."  I have to believe He knows the best way to bring Himself glory whether it be through pain or "blessings."  


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring and Longing

Today I finally got myself to clean out Charlotte's dresser and put the baby girl clothes back in the bin to go back to storage.  It seems as if I was just washing and folding them, preparing for her arrival.  As I pull out the newborn clothes each time we are preparing for the birth of one of our children, I am in awe of how tiny they are.  I get all excited to dress my new babies in them and I dream about what they will look like and who they will become.  I'm sad because Charlotte will never wear them.  I bought a couple new outfits just for her and I will never see her in them.  I am sad that I will never get to dress watch her grow before my eyes.

It's been two months since we lost Charlotte.  I miss her.  I cried today because I once again long to hold her.  I have this idea in my head that as time goes on this longing and sadness I feel will go away.  It hasn't.  In the last week, I have dreamed and longed to hold her in my arms more than ever.  It may be the fact that it is now Spring.  New life is forming all around.  I always have a longing to have a baby in my arms when Spring comes around.  This year I should have.  This make me sad and makes my arms ache all the more.

This morning, I read a blog, of another mom who lost her baby girl, and I cried for her.  She made a comment that really stuck with me.  She said to her daughter, "every day we are closer to where you are and we will rejoice to see you again." I'm so thankful I have this confidence.  It doesn't make today hurt any less, but it gives me great hope for the future.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Moment by Moment

After hearing the news that we had lost our daughter, Charlotte, I lived the next 24 hours and even days moment by moment, trusting God each step of the way.  I remember asking my pastor's wife to pray that Jesus would carry me through all the things I knew had to happen in the next hours and days.  Carry me He did!  If I started to look ahead to far, I would get scared and become overwhelmed.  This wasn't how Jesus expected me to get through this trying time.  His plan was for me to trust Him and He would give me exactly what I needed.
In quietness and confident trust is your strength.  Isaiah 30:15
I didn't see any way around what I had to go through, so I trusted Him.  I prayed through each moment.  Each step along the way I gave to Him, trusting Him.  After I had my IV put in and my blood drawn, I said aloud, "one step done."  I praised Him.  As I was getting my epidural, which I am never fond of getting, I prayed..."help me, Jesus.  Oh, Jesus."  One more step done.  After they broke my water...another step done.  I spent that entire night of labor trusting Jesus each and every moment.  He gave me peace.  It is hard for me to comprehend the peace I felt as I walked through the most devastating thing I have ever been through.  It had to of been from Him, because in my human self this would have been impossible.  He was so faithful each and every moment.

He desires us to live moment by moment, relying on Him to give us the strength to get through anything we face, from the mundane to the trials, from the joys to the challenges.
If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:7
There is no need to jump ahead of Him with all the what-ifs and the worry.  We have no idea what will happen.  And He's got us!

The result of living this moment by moment kind of faith is Peace and Hope.  These come from a God who loves us and has a plan for us so He is glorified in our lives.  It's not about us and what we can do. It's about Him and all He can do.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.  John 16:33 
This is the Hope we have.  He has overcome the world!  He will overcome whatever you are facing today.  Our job is to trust Him moment by moment.  He is faithful and He will do the rest.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Death and My Children

Yesterday as I was taking Nate and Zoe to the doctor for a check-up, ahead of us I saw American flags lining the side of the road.  I wondered what they could be for.  As we drew nearer, I saw that it was a funeral home.  I choked back tears and prayed for the family.  I was so proud and impressed that they would honor someone like that.

Nathanael asked what the flags were for.  I explained that it was a funeral for someone probably in the military.  We talked a bit about what that meant.  He then said, "Charlotte didn't have flags."  I chuckled to myself in the moment and told him because Charlotte wasn't in the military.

Later last night I was thinking about the scene from earlier in the day and once again was reminded by the fact that my children and some of them still very young have experienced death.  They know it too well now.  They know what a funeral home is.  I didn't have to explain that part to Nate earlier.  He just knew.  It seems in my opinion too much for a young child to have to know about.

I am reminded about another conversation a few weeks ago with Tristan.  He started asking questions about how funeral processions could run red lights.  It intrigued him how we were able to go right through the red lights as we followed the car carrying Charlotte to the cemetery.  We talked about all the details in that.  At that time, I again was struck by how my children know too much of death...all the details involved.

We have been reinforcing Heaven with our children a lot through all this talk of funeral homes, cemeteries, and death.  We have hope because we have Jesus.  Charlotte is safe with Jesus in Heaven. Even Zoe who is three knows this.  She very often says, "My baby sister dead.  She's in Heaven with Jesus."  Even though I feel my kids have experienced more of death than they should at their young ages, I desire them to know that they have a God who loves them tremendously and that they can have hope in Him.  I am praying that the experience of them losing their sister will draw them closer to Jesus.  I desire that more than what they know about funeral homes, processions or cemeteries, they would know the hope they can have in Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for their sins and that they can one day spend eternity with Him (and their sister, Charlotte) in Heaven.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Kids Say

Last night as I was putting the girls to bed, we were talking about Charlotte.

Leah said that Charlotte was probably really beautiful and that when God looked at her He was amazed at what He had made.  She then said this was probably why He took her right to Heaven to be with Him...because she was so beautiful.  

I told the girls that Charlotte was beautiful and this was probably true, but we still miss her.

Friday, March 8, 2013

One Month

It's been one month to the day since we lost Charlotte.  I knew all week that Friday would be four weeks, but I didn't know the date.  Steve and I sat down last night to work on this month's budget.  I pulled out the calendar as I usually do.  I said in tears, "its been four weeks." Steve replied, "its been one month."  I glanced at the date on the calendar.  Tomorrow is the eighth.  A shudder went down my spine.  I wasn't prepared to see the number on the calendar.

Sometimes it seems like this past month has flown by and at other times it feels like it has crawled.  Still other times and most of the time, it feels like this whole month has been a dream.  I remember sitting in the doctors office when we couldn't find Charlotte's heartbeat and the world all around me became fuzzy.  The dream began.  As Steve and I cried together, we wondered out loud, "how does this happen?  Why?"  Things like this don't happen to people like us.  We are just normal people, striving to please God and raise our family.  This is the kind of thing that happens to other people, but not to us.  I kept wondering when I would wake up from this dream, no, this nightmare.  Now we were faced with this intense hurt and loss and we had to figure out how to live again.

Over the past month, the hurt has lessened, but it still remains.  It creeps up on me at unusual times and places. It hits me when I see certain friends or when friends ask how I am doing.  I am so grateful for the friends who dare to "enter the danger" to reach out to me, for the ones who ask the hard questions, for the ones who remember Charlotte with me and let me know they miss her too, for the friends who text me and tell me they are still praying for me, for the friends who ask what she looked like and what color her hair was.  In asking all these things, they have no idea how I will respond.  For that matter, I don't know how I will respond either.  They are willing to be there and be open to the fact that they very well may see me fall apart and they still ask.  Without the support that I have had this past month I don't know how I would have gotten through the roughest days.

I am blessed beyond belief.  Who am I that my King would love me so much as to pour out His love and faithfulness into my life the past month?  That He would be so close to me and His presence so evident that I can feel Him carrying me?  Who am I that His body, the church, my brothers and sisters, would love me so much as to "enter the danger" and to meet specific need such as meals, laundry and groceries?


I know that as times goes on and as the hurt still remains my God will continue to be faithful, because that is who He is and He doesn't change.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I'm struggling today on what mourning looks like for me.  Each and every day is so full of activity, noise, and urgent needs to be met.  I find myself sad today in the fact that I desire to mourn the loss of my baby girl, but cannot find the time or the place.  Quite frankly I just want everyone to leave me alone so I can cry and remember.

I desire to sit in quiet and think about Charlotte.  I want to remember how her dark brown hair looked almost curly.  It has me wondering if she would have had her big sister, Zoe's, curly hair.  I want to remember how it felt to hold her as close to my chest as I possibly could.

I think about how we prepared for her arrival.  How her dad and I went to JoAnn's to pick out fabric to make her a blanket with.  I remember as we checked out the cashier, on seeing my bump and our fabric choices, said, "you must be having a girl."  We were so proud.  We both smiled hugely and answered, "yes!"  I remembered working on her blanket at my sister's house in Michigan over Christmas break.  I'm not the best sewer yet and I became frustrated easily.  I saw the flaws all over the blanket, but I was proud I made it for her.  I remember thinking and possibly even saying, "It's not perfect but she will know her momma loves her."  After Charlotte was born, we wrapped her in that very same blanket as we held her close for those very short hours.  The reality was very real as even her snuggly blanket and my arms couldn't make her warm.  A few days later, I took that same blanket to the funeral home for them to wrap Charlotte in for her burial.  In my head I was thinking, "to keep her warm."  All the while  knowing she isn't in her body.  She is safe in the arms of Jesus, but it was in my motherly instincts to do all I knew how to care for her and protect her.

I wonder every day if the flurry of activity in my house is helping my hurt heal faster or if it is making me push the hurt deep down inside of me.  I want to do this whole mourning thing right.  I desire good to come from it.  I know and trust that God has a plan through all of it.  But tonight, I just want to cry.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sickness in Large Families

As most of you can guess, having sickness in a large family looks a bit different than it does when you have just a couple of kids.  It tends to last a lot longer and show itself differently depending on the child.  It is a very trying time and the sickness no matter what it is keeps getting passed from person to person.  Some moments and days I cry in discouragement and at other moments I laugh because all of this is so ridiculous.

Right now we have the stomach flu going through the children.  This isn't your normal stomach bug either.  It is long lasting with each of the children and its been making the youngest ones miserable.  You know, lay on the couch moaning, groaning and whining, miserable?  The kind of sickness that makes you cry because you can't take away their pain and discomfort.  Today we are on day ten of this flu.  As of this morning, five of the kids have had some sort of it.  It is hitting the youngest ones the hardest.  Nate has had it since Saturday and he is still moaning and groaning.

All I can do to survive this is every morning as I wake up I cry out to God, "Help me today!"  I remind myself many times throughout the day that "His Grace is sufficient for me...His power is made perfect in my weakness."  Man, am I weak right now.  That is perfect because that is when He steps in to work, if I let Him.

Two scriptures I have been leaning on today are:

"Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because he always lives to intercede for them." Hebrews 7:25
"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."  Psalm 37:3&4
Today the desires of my heart are wellness for my family and protection for me and Steve so we don't get it.  I am so thankful to have Jesus interceding for me.  I get so exhausted I don't even know what to pray or how to pray.  I looked back in my blog archives from a couple of years ago and found two other posts on sickness in large families if you are interested.  Go here and here.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fear Creeps In

I actually should title this "When Satan Tries To Creep In."  My life is a spiritual battlefield.  I have grown so close to the Lord in the past few weeks as He has carried me through losing Charlotte.  I have spent more time in the Word and have been praying continually throughout the day.  Recently, I have known Jesus as my protector, my shield, my refuge, my strength, my comfort and my peace.  Today I was reminded that as I grow more and more in love with my Jesus, Satan wants to destroy that.  He wants to distract me.  He wants me to fear.  He wants me to question my trust in God.  Knowing from past experiences he knows just how to trick me and that is fear.
"Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8
As I mentioned in the last post, Zoe is sick with a stomach bug.  When I finally got in the shower today,  Satan began his attack.  I began to worry.  You know the "what ifs"?  What if...she gets sicker?, ...I lose her too?  This is when I quickly realized the attack.  Often in the past I would have kept on going right along as the fears and worry consumed me.  Praise the Lord!  He is good!  This time I recognized it early and began to fight back.

This came instantly to mind.  When Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan, the weapon He used against Satan schemes was the Word of God, the Bible.  Jesus replied to Satan three different times, "It is written..."  If Jesus used the Word against Satan then I would too.  I began telling myself some of the promises that He has given me through His Word.  Promises that have been meaningful to me lately.  

"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11
So do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10  
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5&6 
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust."  Psalm 91:1 
I am so thankful for God's Word.  I am thankful that through it He gives me everything I need.  I am thankful that the Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12).  I am thankful that the Word is true (Psalm 33:4).  I am thankful that the Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path (Psalm 119:105).

Since I began this blog a few days ago, another one of my kids has gotten the stomach bug too, my dish washer has broken, I had to go into the ER to have an ultrasound for a possible blood clot in my leg (thankfully, it wasn't a clot).  Everyday is a battlefield.  Satan is working hard at destroying me and making me doubt my God, but He will not steal my joy or my worship of My Creator, My King!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Back to Reality

I know I've stated in other blogs that I am trying to figure out how to live this new life we are now living since losing Charlotte.  Our lives will never be the same as they were before and nor do I want them to be.  Each day I have the choice on how I will live the day and if I choose to bring honor to God in my choices.

Well, this week reality hit.   I am still a mom to seven living children.  And my life with those kids moves on.  Zoe is sick.  She has the nasty intestinal flu, as the nurse put it.  Today, we are on day three.  This mommy is tired.  I do admit that I LOVE the snuggles that come with my little girl being sick.  I am hugging her extra close this time.  Remember how I stated I have a choice in my actions?  I am cherishing time with my youngest, praying with and for her and trying to not be consumed with the other things that "need" to get done around the house.  I could easily, and I have to fight it with the Lord as my strength, get discouraged with the whining, vomiting, lack of sleeping, and the other yucky things that come with the flu.  But over all of that I want my little Zoe to know that her mommy loves her and that her mommy is willing to spend the day just sitting and holding her.  What a perfect example of how I've seen my Jesus holding me these last few weeks.  He just keeps loving me and carrying me, even in my yuckiest.  He never grows weary of loving me.

I am once again reminded how blessed we are right now.  We have so much help and support from friends and family.  We are still getting meals from our church body.  Because others have been bringing us our dinner, I have had more time to sit and hold my sick little girl.   We are also blessed with a neighbor/friend from church who is continuing to come get our laundry, take it home with her to wash, dry and fold it.  If I had to do my own regular laundry right now, the laundry would be getting piled up with the "sick" laundry that needs to get washed.

Today, I am still in awe of my great God.  He knew Zoe would be sick this week and he knew what I would need to get through it.  He has poured out His grace so graciously on me lately.  I am so grateful for His hand and the way He works and cares about everything in my life.  Lord, continue to help me to trust you and heal my little girl.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Cost of Surrender

Over the past few months, God has been moving in our lives.  Our church had sermons on God's sovereignty.  We had been pressing into God and excited about the new ways we were experiencing Him in fresh ways.  We spent time talking about living whole heartedly for Him.  He had given us a love for His Word, more than we had ever had.  We had been ever convinced of His faithfulness and His goodness.  As I have worshiped over the past few months, I would raise my hands in surrender to His plan, to His way, to His Word.

In those times of worship, I never would have or could have imagined that we would be called to surrender our daughter into His hands.  It is easy to sing about God's faithfulness and to surrender our lives to Him when life is going well.  But, as I struggled with just yesterday, how will I respond to Him when there is a cost to my surrender?  When it means I won't be able to watch my daughter grow.  When it means, I won't be able to hear her laugh or see her smile.  When it means, she will not be a part of our family each and everyday.  When it means, I can't hold her, kiss her or tell her I love her.  How do I respond then?

Does the fact that I don't have my daughter here with me change the fact of who God is?  Like I said earlier, just months and weeks before we lost Charlotte, God had been revealing to us who He is...that He is good, He is faithful, He is sovereign, that nothing that happened in our lives didn't first pass through His hands.  In the weeks before losing Charlotte, we had even been working on memory verses with our kids.  Can you even believe that the verse we were working on was Proverbs 3:5&6?

Trust in the Lord with all of your hearts, lean not on your own understanding.  In all of your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your paths straight.  
God was working on us, because He knew the cost we would face.  He knew what the future held for us.  He knew the plans He had for us.  He knew we would be in a place when all we could do is to trust Him.  He had been working in our lives to build our faith so it would be easy to trust Him.  I think I've said in another post and I tell people all the time that if I couldn't trust God in His faithfulness even in the midst of the hurt of losing my daughter, I would have nothing to hold on to.  I would be hopeless.  That is too scary for me to even fathom.

Surrender today looks ever so different than it looked to me a month ago.  But, even as I hurt and I don't understand God's ways, I trust Him wholly.  As I shared with my small group days before we lost Charlotte, I asked them to pray that I would trust God for His faithfulness, His goodness, and His love.  And today my prayer is exactly the same.  Just because my life circumstances changed, doesn't mean God has changed.  He is who He says He is.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and I trust Him.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

When Life Moves On...

...but I want to hold on.

It's been two weeks since we found out our precious Charlotte had no life inside my womb.  Two weeks that have been a whirlwind.  Everything happened so fast and then it was all over.  I still sit and wonder what happened.  Did we really lose our baby girl?  This must be a horrible dream and when will I ever wake up?

I am so grateful for my family...for my children that I do have here with me.  They have been a great distraction from the hurt and the pain, but also at the same time, life goes on for them and for us.  I have a large family and I am still a mother.  Just because I lose a child doesn't mean I can stop living or stop being a mother.  I even found myself disciplining my children at the funeral home the morning of Charlotte's funeral.  That part of my life doesn't stop.

Last night I was hit with the realization that my life right now looks exactly like what my life looked like two weeks ago before we lost Charlotte.  This realization hurts me.  My biggest fear in losing Charlotte is that I will forget her, especially since we never really knew her.  Everyone keeps telling me that I will never forget her and I know they are trying to help, but I see it happening each and every day.  I am caught up in my job, being a mother to my other seven children.  It is a big job.  There is still laundry to wash, meals to make, beds to make, discipline to be dealt, fights to break up, noses to wipe.  These keep me busy and distracted.  Don't get me wrong, I love my job.  This is the only job I have desired my whole life.  I have the best children and husband.  But, among all of this my arms still ache to hold my precious baby girl.

My body is healing and it doesn't even feel like I was pregnant two weeks ago.  Somedays, it feels like the nightmare we have been through has never happened, except I remember.  I remember when we found out we were expecting Charlotte.  I remember us naming her middle name Faith.  I remember telling the kids we were having another baby and I remember their excitement.  I remember feeling Charlotte move inside of me.  I remember how I never tired of feeling her and I how I got excited each and every time.   I remember when we decided her name would be Charlotte because it was so beautiful.  I remember getting to the end of my pregnancy and aching to hold her and to know her just like I have all my other children.  Only this time it would be different.  I would only get to know her for nine months and see and hold her for three short hours.

I don't want to forget one moment of any of it.  I long to remember my sweet baby girl.  I long to remember this pain I feel because it means I love her.  I long to hold on even if life does move on.

Charlotte Faith

The following is a letter Steve and I wrote and had read at Charlotte's funeral.

Since people didn’t get a chance to know our daughter, we wanted to tell a bit of her story and share how we knew her and what we knew about her.

For the first time, the name of our daughter, Charlotte Faith, had significance beyond just being a name we liked.  Once we knew that we were having a girl, we started to more seriously look for names for her.  Charlotte was a name suggested by one of our kids that we both immediately fell in love with and that seemed a better fit than the other names we were considering.  

But the name Faith, that was a name that God had given us shortly after she was conceived, even before we knew she was a girl.  

You see, as is often the case for us, we had recently struggled with God’s plan for our family. Thirteen years ago God called us to total surrender with our family, to put all of our faith and trust in His plan for us.  We had been resisting this for a while, but then God reconfirmed clearly that He wanted us to fully surrender our kids and our plans to him.  This brought peace and joy beyond measure.  There’s no better place to be than walking with Him.

Eventually we found out we were expecting a baby.  God had confirmed through his Spirit that our new baby was a gift from him and that we needed to trust him, to have Faith.

Little did we know at the time, that her name, Faith, would also become something that we would have to hold on to with all of our might.  When we look back at this journey, it is clear that God was preparing us for this loss and that he is calling us to a deeper Faith than we have ever known.  We had often wondered, that if tragedy struck us, would our faith be strong enough to trust Him.  Now that we have experience tragedy, trusting God is all we have.  It is all we can hold on to. It is the only hope that we have.  If we don’t trust him fully, then we have absolutely nothing.

Psalm 134:15 says “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in you book before one of them came to be.”  

God formed our daughter in the womb, he knew her before she was formed.   He had her life planned out before she was born.  God is never surprised.

We are heartbroken beyond measure at the loss we feel, but we are also so thankful that God has called us to have faith and that our faith has taken on a depth that we would never have imagined.  We have never felt a hurt so deep, but have also never felt God’s presence and peace so strongly.  Our hope and prayer is that Charlotte Faith’s life and death would bring glory to God and point people to the source of all hope, Jesus Christ.

“The Lord give and the Lord takes away, BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD”