Friday, August 12, 2016

Celebrating Ethan: Days #355-362

Day #355: Created for impact// 

We used to pray that God would use Ethan to make an impact on the world. At the time, I didn't realize the neat little box that I was squeezing my prayers into. I imagined Ethan standing up for what is right even when it was unpopular, speaking to crowds, spreading hope. I never imagined that he'd be used to make an impact through his short little existence here on earth. But he did. Such tiny little feet left a giant footprint. 

It doesn't make me miss him any less. It doesn't take away the longing we have to hold him one more time. But it does open my eyes to a bigger picture. It pushes me to leave an impact, with whatever time I have. 

Because whether we live 93 minutes, or 93 years, we all live short lives in the span of eternity. Created for impact. 

Day #356: Vulnerability//

Vulnerability is a scary thing. It can be scary to let people into the mess. Into the weak places. The scary places. The lonely places.

For me, I've found that the fear of vulnerability doesn't come from a place of wanting to appear strong. I know I'm weak. I know I'm flawed. For me, the fear comes from a place of wanting to protect people. From uncomfortable from the look of shock, fear, condescension, or dismissal that follows vulnerability. Of wanting to not be a burden. In a way, I guess you could call it a form of pride. 

But there has been such healing when I've reached out and grabbed onto the hand of someone who gets it. We all need a safe place to be transparent on the hard days. In those first months, to talk about the sleepless nights, the plaguing nightmares, the terrifying level of depression. As time goes on, to talk about the triggers, the anxiety, the fears, the anger, the hopes, and even the joys. To find people to link arms with, who help you fight against the darkness. The people who see you, yet love you, at your worst. 

The people who understand. The people who don't, yet still have so much perspective to offer. The small circle, the safe place. 

As I've navigated the minefield of when, where, and with whom to be 100% vulnerable with the deepest corners of my heart, I've been struck by the realization that there is no hiding from God. There is no "pulling it together" and "getting by" for the sake of being less of a burden to Him. For the sake of "protecting". He sees our hears, He knows our thoughts--yet He loves us and sent His son to die for us, even in our sin and brokenness. Even when he's seen us at our worst.

Day #357: Foxes // 

I had known for years that I wanted a woodland themed nursery. When I first picked the theme three years ago, woodland themed decor was hard to find. At the time, it didn't matter--we had no reason to start buying things. Years later, selecting the theme for Ethan's nursery was easy. It had been a dream-theme through years of waiting. 

It seemed like forest-inspired nurseries became popular right around the time we learned we were pregnant with Ethan. Perhaps I was simply more aware of it. Now, everywhere I go I see forest animals, wood stumps, pine trees and baby foxes. They all make us smile and think of Ethan. Chris and I have stopped multiple times in a store to pick up some sort of forest decor and show the other what we found. 


Ethan's first stuffed animal was a little fox (pictured above, center) that a dear friend bought for us. Foxes always make us think of our sweet, little feisty guy.
 

Day #358: The power of community//

Only hours after Ethan passed, I reached out to someone I had never met, but had read their blog and instantly connected with their words. In taking that first step, I was thrust into a community of women who had walked this road before me. People who listened. People who understood. People who could offer a simple, yet incredible powerful, "Me too".

 Weeks later, we attended our very first Walk to Remember. We were blown away by the number of babies that had been lost, just in our little corner of the world. But more than that, we were blown away by the love, the unity, and the instant unconditional acceptance that comes from that simple, yet incredible powerful, "Me too." Over this past year, I can name at least 18 women who have become dear friends to me, following that simple "Me too." And I stopped counting at 18... And then there are those who can't say "Me too", but they do say, "I'm here." As healing as the community of fellow loss parents has been, there has also been healing in watching the bonds of friendship grow deeper with friends who havent walked in your shoes, but have walked their own journeys, and can offer such richness and support to your community. I've seen the value of finding people who understand, but also having friendships with some who don't--but can carry you through and offer unconditional love and support all the same.

To my community--my support system, my family. I'm so thankful to have been thrust into such an amazing place, among each of you.

 Day #359: Conversation pieces//

Not too long ago, a barista asked me what my necklace said. As I told her, she asked a few follow-up questions. I answered, to which she replied, "Oh, I'm so sorry" and turned her eyes downward as if she was very sorry she had asked. I just smiled and said what I've gotten so used to saying each time my words prompt a quick retreat or a downturned eye. "It's okay, I'm glad you asked about him. People don't always do. I'm glad to talk about him." What she didn't know is that my heart filled with joy when she said his name out loud. When she didn't try to skirt around it, shy away from it, or change the subject. When she just asked me about him like he was ours--he IS ours.

For every three awkward responses and instant burned bridges I'm faced with, I get one amazing connection. One person who responds to my answers with teary eyes and a "Really? Me too." It makes being newly deemed "the girl who wish you hadn't introduced yourself to at a party" worth it. 

My collection of conversation pieces had grown a little over the past year, as dear friends have gifted me precious keepsakes. I love to wear them and grasp onto them throughout the day. Special reminders, and keys to open doors. 

Day #360: Family//

Shortly after Ethan passed, we met with a couple who had experienced a very similar loss 6 years before us. We instantly connected with them and couldn't believe how similar our stories were. They were such a balm to my heart.

One of their daughters drew this picture, and gave it to me. She explained that it was of her family, and pointed out each one of them--including her brother who she knows so well and talks about so naturally, even though he went to heaven before she was born. The picture has always been so special to me because it was such a beautiful depiction of family. Your brother doesn't cease to be your brother when he is no longer on earth. Same can be said for your parent, your cousin, your child. Death may change a lot of things, but it doesn't take away the reality that this--this beautiful, messy, unexpected picture--is family.
 

Day #361: Brave//

The word seems strange to me each time I hear it. I looked it up once and Websters Dictionary defines it as "feeling or showing no fear". Yep, that's why it feels weird. 

A lot of things have been called brave. Months of doctors appointments, testing, driving to LA, searching for answers, didn't seem "brave" to me. It was our natural response. Ask just about anyone with a sick child. No one volunteers to go into this battle. The alternative is to sit back and hide in bed, while your child is in danger. That is far scarier than fighting for their life. Continuing to move forward after loss. Getting out of bed each morning, sometimes staying in bed all day, was getting by. Breathing. Not marching into battle; just hanging on even when you weren't sure you could.

We didn't ask to be brave. And we sure didn't meet the description of "feeling no fear". But through it all, my mind continually goes back to II Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness." We are so very weak, so very small. But, because of the power of Christ, we have everything we need. He gives us strength to brave the unthinkable. He alone gives us courage to brave the unknown. Praise the Lord for strength, and a peace that surpasses all understanding.
 

Day #362: Dakota//

I know she's "just a dog". But, let me tell you why this one is so special to us. 

Before I even knew I was pregnant with Ethan, Dakota became very protective of me. She followed me throughout the house. She cried when I closed a door, separating us. She growled at strangers who got too close. She began to act in ways that were uncharacteristic for her. 

Throughout my pregnancy with Ethan, she was my shadow. She barked at anything that dared to get too close to me-- from strangers to spider webs. She'd lay her head on my growing belly. She'd lay outside Ethan's room because she knew she wasn't allowed inside, but wanted to be nearby. I'm pretty sure she knew a whole lot more than we gave her credit for. 

I wish you could have seen her reaction when we went to take her home, after Ethan was born. After we came home without him. The dog who had been glued to my side for 7 months stared at me with big brown eyes and refused to come to me when I called her. She looked at Chris, as if to ask, "What happened?" and then took two steps back from me, and laid herself on the floor. She ignored me for a week, before everything changed again. 

I was laying face down, sobbing, when I felt one paw touch my shoulder. Then another paw touched my other shoulder. Next, I felt two hind legs climb onto my back. She curled up onto a tight ball, on top of my back, while I cried. She stayed with me. I'm pretty sure she knew a whole lot more than we gave her credit for. 

In the following weeks, she continued to protect. She could tell when I was starting to feel breathless. She would bolt across the room and crawl up into my lap, and enthusiastically begin to lick my face. 

I suddenly understood while dogs are often brought into hospitals and given to veterans. 

She may be "just a dog", but this little pup loved Ethan. She wanted to be his best friend. And, now, she does everything she can to be mine.

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