Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The New Year: A letter to Ethan

My Sweet Ethan,

A new year is just days away and I am not sure how I feel about it. It's been the hardest year of my life and, at times, I've wished that the year would end. I've half-jokingly said that I want 2015 to leave and never come back.

I'm so sorry, sweet baby. I never truly meant it. My heart just hurts so badly sometimes and I say things that I don't mean. I've always tended to respond to heartache in that way. I suppose it's easier to be angry than to be hurt.  I am sorry, my little love. I was never angry- only hurt- because I love you so and miss you with every part of me.

 I refuse to let my aching heart create anger within me. You were a beautiful gift. You were worth every moment. My aching heart does not compare to the joy that being your mom gives me.

Saying goodbye to 2015 is bittersweet. Although I have hope that the future holds good things, I want to tell you that 2015 has been the best year of my life.

2015 was our year.

It was the year that Daddy and I first learned of you. It was a year filled with joy.

2015 was the year that you and I were inseparable for seven months. It was the year that we sang in the car, listened to talk radio, read the Bible, went on brisk walks and ate all of the foods that your little body needed and craved.  It was the year that you grew to love Daddys voice. It was the year that you flipped, kicked and danced throughout the day and into the night. The year that you stumped the doctors time and time again.

2015 was the year that my understanding of unconditional love deepened. It was the year that I my heart was built into the heart of a mother. The year that I knew that I would have gladly done anything and everything to keep you safe.

2015 was the year that we held you. It was the year that we gazed upon your perfect face and kissed your tiny nose. It was the year that you breathed the same air as us. It was the year that you snuggled against my chest and slept.

2015 was the year that you entered into eternity with Jesus in heaven. It was the year that I began to think deeper about heaven; about the free gift that I was offered because of Jesus' death and resurrection.

2015 was the most beautiful, challenging, wonderful year of my life and I would live it again and again.

As we leave 2015, I don't know whether to feel sad or joyful. Leaving 2015 brings me further from you, yet closer to seeing you again.

Not a minute goes by that we don't think about you. You will always be loved. Thank you for making 2015 the best year.

We love you, sweetie pie.

Love always,

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wake me up when December ends

If you're looking for holly and jolly, move along. If you want something unfiltered, here you go. 

If you ask me, we don't allow much room for people to be real during the holidays. We have very high expectations of the general population, regardless of what they're going through.

The cashier at the store doesn't smile.
What a grinch. 

Someone declines to send holiday cards.
Such a scrooge. 

Someone brings up a sensitive subject at a social gathering.
Oh come on, it's the holidays for crying out loud. 

Our culture expects people to plaster on a smile and spread Christmas cheer. Society expects everyone to be merry and bright. We don't care what they're going through. Death of a loved one? Loss of a dream? Unemployment? A broken family? Cheer up, it's Christmas. Slap a bandaid on that bullet wound and drink some eggnog.  

On behalf of the hurting and the broken, I'll be real. Every grief is different and I cannot speak for everyone, but I'll give you my perspective- December stinks. If we could just fast forward to January that would be awesome.

Now hear me out. I understand that Christmas is special. We'll get there. Just stick with me for a minute.

It is hard to care about the little things when my heart is hurting. The decorations. The music. The food. The gifts. All of my energy gets thrown into trying to survive and there is little energy left for the details.

What do you want for Christmas?
Um...for it to be January 2nd. Bah-humbug. 

Social gatherings can be exhausting. Yes, even for an extrovert. Carrying on a conversation can be plain exhausting when all I want to do is go home and cry. When it takes every bit of strength to hold it together. When everyone is smiling and I feel so out of place, as my heart lays shattered in a million pieces. When someone asks a hard question, causing me to reveal my brokenness. When no one asks the hard question and I feel as if everyone has forgotten. It's easier to limit social gatherings to the people you feel that I can be real with.

The store is a breeding ground for stress. A crowded place brings great potential for exhausting conversations and experiences. More well-meaning questions about the amount of children that I'm shopping for. More parents screaming at their children...I'm not talking about discipline and frustration. I'm talking about people completely losing their minds and calling their children mean names, while I would give just about anything just to have another hour with my baby.

I lose patience for petty things. If I'm not careful, that impatience can evolve into bitterness. I have little interest in the shopping list, complaints about the long line at the store or the great What-Outfit-Should-we-Wear-in-our-Christmas-Card Crisis of 2015. Boohoo, you'll survive.

Making decisions is hard. Dealing with grumpy people is hard. Dealing with happy people is hard. Just dealing is plain hard. I've cried in the car, I've cried in the mall and I've cried in Target. Yes, big meltdown in Target. One moment my husband and I are discussing what to buy a family member for Christmas and the next moment I'm crying big tears over what I would buy if Ethan were here. (Thankfully, I have the most amazing husband in the world who affirmed my tears and agreed with a simple, yet sweet, "It's okay. This sucks.")

I began to question my intentions. I felt guilty for feeling so fed up with Christmas. Be happy! It is the holidays after all. 

But then a realization hit me. I should not feel guilty for avoiding the westernized cultural aspects of Christmas, as long as I kept the main thing the main thing. (Although I honestly don't think it's wrong in itself to watch Hallmark movies or eat Christmas cookies.) In the midst of the heartbreak and overwhelming pain, the truth of Christmas has become more real to me. And the truth brings me comfort. In a way, Christmas is more meaningful to me than it ever has been before. Sure, I could go all year without hearing another carol, eating another cookie or visiting the mall. But the truth of Christmas has hit me upside the head.

O come, o come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel. 

Christmas is about God coming to earth to rescue his people and to offer salvation to a broken world. God's people waited for the Messiah to come. They faced persecution, slavery and tribulation. They longed for a king. They longed for peace. Jesus came to die on the cross, to set his chosen people free.

That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear. 

Jesus came to offer hope to a world of heartache. He knew that the world was broken. He knew that the world was hurting. He knew that people were fighting to keep going. That is why He came. To offer rescue. To provide hope.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! 

He came. He came to offer salvation to those who call on His name. He came and He is coming again. He is coming to conquer evil and brokenness. He is coming bring justice to the Earth. He is coming to wipe every tear from our eyes.


Isaiah 9:6-7 "For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever."

So many people are hurting this season and we need to offer love and grace to the broken. The cashier in the grocery store may be hurting. The person who cut you off on the freeway may be hurting. The neighbor that never smiles may be hurting. We need to share the reason why we rejoice.

I also want to take a moment to tell you all that I care. If I have been distant or moody at times, I apologize. My hurt does not give me an excuse to be rude, and while I've done my best to be pleasant I'm sure I've messed up a time or two (or ten or twenty). Please have patience with me and please forgive me. You are loved. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

But I do have identity

I don't fit in.

I am a mother who can't relate to baby talk.  I don't know much about sleep schedules, tummy time, important milestones, the proper way to buckle a car seat, what temperature the bath water should be, what music baby likes best and how to calm a crying baby in 10-seconds flat.

 I've experienced my water breaking, laboring a child to full dilation, and emergency c-section recovery. I understand milk production and how to soothe related aches and pains. I know very little about babies, but a whole lot about childbirth. My son was born four months ago and went to heaven 93 minutes later. He spent his life in our arms. There was no routine. There was no opportunity to morph into an expert. There were only whispered "I love you"s, soft lullabies and tearful prayers. 

Yet, I know I am a mother. I am forever changed. The moment I got pregnant, I became a parent. I don't think like I used to.  I completed my pre-baby goals. I kissed elaborate vacations goodbye. I baby-proofed my life. I began to think about birthdays, holidays and celebrations as an opportunity to create meaningful family traditions for the next generation. We willingly traded in our young married days for a new chapter, filled with dreams about of a house full of children. 

Someone who has lost a parent is an orphan. Someone who has lost a spouse is a widow or a widower. What do you call a parent who has lost a child? There is no word for it.  I am not saying that the grief is any more than the other two...I'm simply saying that child loss shakes your identity.

Who am I? The question rattled around my head, as I left yet another awkward social gathering where I just didn't fit in.

Who am I?  I am a wife and a mother. I am a mother with no babies at home. I am a 27-year old empty nester. I am a mother who loves her child fiercely, every moment of every day, despite the distance. I am a broken heart, but better because of it. I feel the pain of those around me fiercely. I cannot watch the news without sobbing. I empathize with the hurting, because I know what it feels like to have the breath sucked out of your lungs and to feel as if your entire perspective on everything you ever knew has changed. I am a million things, yet I do not belong.

Who am I?

And then the truth hit me.

I may not belong, but I do have identity. 

This world is not my home. I'm not supposed to belong.
Hebrews 13:14 "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come."

I am a child of God. 
John 1:12 "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

I was created for a purpose. 
Ephesians 2:10 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

He has identified us as his own, by giving us the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 1:22 "He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts."

I cannot put my trust in man. In this world. In anything, other than Christ. 
Colossians 3:1-2 "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated as the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Psalm 118:8 "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man."

I do not belong. I do not fit in.

But I do have identity.