Tuesday, August 18, 2015

He Knows My Name

Picture with me, if you will, that it is September 2, 2012. You've just returned from a weekend away in an attempt to distract yourself from the fact that, just one week before, you buried your baby boy in a tiny white casket in the red Alabama dirt of a country cemetery. 

You arrive home in time to attend the night services at your church. You debate on it; you haven't shown your face anywhere in your small town since your baby died. The thought of seeing anyone face to face and seeing the reality of the sympathy on their faces has paralyzed you in fear. At the last minute, you decide to go.

You walk in and sink into the front pew so that you don't have to pass anyone on your way to sit down. You stare down at your lap and notice the empty womb beneath your black Under Armour shirt. You hide your face as you cringe. 

You are filled with conflicted feelings; it's nice to feel support from those who stop to speak, but at the same time you desperately want to sink into the pew and disappear. You are grateful when the service begins and you can just exist there alone on the front pew.

A few hymns are sung, and you contribute every once in awhile when you weren't completely distracted with flashbacks of the last week and a half. When the lights turn off to sing along with a few praise and worship DVD's you rejoice in the darkness where you can just be.

The first song starts to play and you immediately recognize the tune; it is one of your favorite songs and normally, you would be excited for it to be playing. The song is "He Knows My Name". You try to sing along, but the images behind the lyrics are of a tiny newborn baby resting peacefully in a pair of hands. The tears begin to well in your eyes and you know that the dam is about to crack.

In an effort to remain invisible, you place your face in your lap and within seconds find yourself overcome with powerful sobs that can only come forth from a grieving parent. In a moment, you feel a hand on your shoulder, and then an arm around you. Someone sets a box of tissues in your lap and your sobs become mixed with tears of gratitude. 

This was me, almost three years ago. To this day, that song always makes me think of Barrett. This past Sunday night, we sang that song again, and with Barrett's birthday coming up Sunday, I found myself overcome with emotions as I lay on my husband's shoulders and just listened to the lyrics.

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
He hears me when I call'

The first line gives me comfort as I reflect on Barrett's brief life. The Lord knew him before he was even formed in my womb. The same God that has walked with me for almost 11 years now is walking the streets of gold with my sweet boy. 

Last night as I was beginning the wall that we are using to display Barrett's things, I looked at the blown up canvas we have of one of the pictures from our pregnancy announcement photo shoot. It is his first ultrasound lying on my then new red Bible with Psalm 139; a few verses of which are now forever engraved on his grave marker. 

That red Bible is now tattered and the pages are falling out, but I will carry it always because it was the Bible I was using while he was here with me. As I looked at that photo, I reflected back on the song from the night before. I still find that song overwhelming, but for different reasons. That September day in 2012, I was overwhelmed by the images of the baby on the screen. Now it overwhelms me because of the hope contained in the lyrics. 

He knows my son's name. He loves him even more than I do. 

He knows how much his absence hurts me. He hears me when I am alone and the grief overwhelms me to the point that I don't even know what to pray. He knows every tear I have shed over his death. He sees the ones that continue to fall.

He knows your name. 

He knows my name.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Abba, Father

Today has been...a day. It wasn't an anniversary date with Barrett, but my heart was weighed down with his absence. My desire to hold him was overwhelming. It was one of those days where I just had this feeling of not knowing what to do with my arms in his absence.

He was on my mind all day. I replayed the day of his birth over and over again and it was so real that I could hear The Weather Channel discussing then Tropical Storm Isaac. I could feel that desperation that comes with being consumed by a feeling of helplessness knowing that your baby has died and there is nothing you can do about it.

When I finally made it through the day...through work and church and my husband asked me what was wrong, the only words I could muster were "I miss Barrett". That simple statement is so profound. Within it lies so many emotions and scars and would have beens.

Those three words summed up my entire day and the last 2 years, 11 months, and 20 days. Those three words sum up the heavy weight that knowing his birthday is only eleven days away carries. 

Sometimes I take the emotions of his death and try to explain them with detailed illustrations. But tonight, that's all I have. I miss him...I just miss him.

And every tear I cried as I sat in my car after work today held enormous amounts of love. The love for my son and the pain of navigating the path of parenting a child who isn't alive spilled out onto my steering wheel in big, ugly, crocodile tears. 

And in that moment, I was so thankful that, even when I don't know the words to pray, God knows what is on my heart. I am grateful that I can come to him and call Him "Father". I would be lost without that peace that surpasses all understanding that overcame me as I sat there in my car symbolically curled up in my Savior's lap with no words, but knowing that He knows them all anyway.

My sweet boy, your purpose is incredible. I am blessed to watch it unfold. Your life has been the source of countless smiles the last few weeks. I love you. So, so much. I dream of our reunion when I can run like never before and scoop you up in my arms and finally fill that aching void.

At self-defense class last night I was wearing a shirt that says "There is No Finish Line" and I love it because, in that aspect, there is no finish line. There is always room for improvement. But as I thought about it more in depth and spent that drive home as some quiet time with God, I could see my finish line. My finish line is my reunion with you and an eternity with our merciful Savior who graciously blessed me with the hope of seeing you again.

Gosh I love you. You are so loved and so wanted. You are so missed. Until that blessed day when I can hold you again, I will carry you in my heart. I will carry your name and do my best to make sure that you are never forgotten here on Earth. I will mother you as best I can figure out how to in your absence. Your life, though brief, is so cherished. God packed a lot of purpose in a tiny person. I am so, so proud to be your mom. 

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Monday, August 10, 2015

How Can It Be?

Tomorrow brings another milestone with Barrett's pregnancy. On August 11, 2012, we had our gender reveal party. We had a beautiful Pinterest worthy cake and a onesie with his name monogrammed it to announce his gender and name to our family and friends.

It was an amazing day filled with smiles and laughter. The photos from that day boast proud parents with glowing faces and my beautiful round belly that carried a precious treasure.

Last night at church I had one of those moments where God sent me exactly what I needed in that moment. We were singing "Forever" by Kari Jobe. It's a song that I hear almost daily on satellite radio, but there is something about seeing the lyrics on that big screen at church as you sing along that sometimes reveals lyrics that you had absentmindedly sang before. 

As we began to sing the lyrics,

"The ground began to shake
                                                             The stone was rolled away
                                                           His perfect love could not be overcome
                                                             Now death where is your sting?
                                                              Our resurrected King
                                                         Has rendered you defeated"

my heart swelled. I looked at the stained glass windows that were to my right and studied the images of the crucifixion and the resurrection as I processed those lyrics in my mind. My heart, in the midst of grief, was filled with overwhelming gratitude to my Savior. Because of his mercy and grace, I grieve with hope. My Savior defeated death, and because of that, though I wade through excruciating grief on earth, I do so knowing that it is only temporary and one day I will be reunited with my son.

The next song we sang was "How Can It Be?" by Lauren Dangle which was an overwhelming follow up to that song. The gratitude I was feeling became completely overwhelming. Because of His sacrifice, not only do I have the promise of eternal life, but I have the promise that this grief and pain is only temporary.

I glanced at the stained glass windows again and focused on the image of the crucifixion. I looked at those nail pierced hands and sat in awe of the truth that those hands had carefully formed my baby boy and instilled his great purpose within him. A peace came over me with the reminder that those same hands that so graciously formed his life, are holding him now.

As Brent and I were headed home this evening with the girls, Audrey began to excitedly scream "IT'S A RAINBOW!". I glanced up expecting to have to search for a barely visible rainbow, but instead, I saw a large, vibrant, beautiful rainbow stretching across the sky in a grand ark; the perfect reminder of that grand promise.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Don't Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle

In some ways, my life is still frozen in time, a piece of me forever idling in August 2012. That piece of me that Barrett took with him is cemented in time. That's not necessarily a bad thing. August holds many painful memories, but at the same time, it holds so much about my precious baby boy.

It seems that every day of this month serves up a multitude of memories. The Timehop app on my phone creates mixed emotions this month. I love when it reminds me of the days where I spent time just feeling him kick. When I see those posts, I catch my mind wandering back to that time. I envision ourselves in that first home we shared together and the freshly painted nursery at the end of the hall. I am back in his room in the rocking chair taking in all of the newly bought onesies hanging in his closet and Audrey's crib that we had set back up for him. I see my hands on my beautifully round belly, and I feel that peaceful anticipation that I basked in until his death.

I desperately long for just a few seconds back in that nursery with his precious little kicks reassuring me of the miraculous life I was carrying. Sometimes I think If I could just hold him one more time, but I know it would be like that songs says and leave me wishing for one more time. It could never be enough. 

Yesterday as I was talking with a fellow loss mom and trying to think of an illustration for this journey, one suddenly came to mind. We have been talking a lot recently about where Jesus uses a potter to explain how God molds and shapes our lives. So as I was searching for words, pottery came to mind.

I pictured myself before Barrett's death, not as a piece of pottery without blemish, but one that had its fair share of scratches and chips. Overall though, I was in one piece. When Barrett died, it was like someone took that piece of pottery and dropped it from a rooftop, shattering it into countless pieces. I looked at those pieces and instantly knew that I could never find them all, and even if I did, I would never be able to fit them all back together. 

For the first few months, the pieces remained where they had fallen in the crash. Then, little by little, day by day, I started to gather a few small pieces and glue them back. Maybe it wasn't exactly where they were before, but it was progress. Some days, the glue holding the gathered pieces together holds strong and other days it cracks a little. Some of the pieces will never be found; they followed my baby boy. But even if I could find every piece and glue them all back in the correct position, I still would never be the same as before; the cracks would always remain.

Sometimes, those cracks hurt. Emotionally they seem unbearable and some days they are accompanied by a physical ache that I can only describe as a broken heart and a mother's empty arms.  Despite that, the cracks do not indicate a lack of beauty. Rather, they are indicative of strength. Each one serves as evidence that you didn't give up. And every once in awhile, when you swear your eye catches a sparkle in a few of the cracks, know that it is not your imagination. Those sparkles are full of hope and an indescribable joy that is unique in its ability to coexist with unimaginable levels of pain. Those sparkles, are your baby's purpose shining through. 

One of the hardest paths to navigate in this journey is learning how to parent a child that isn't here. This is a path that is unique to everyone and there is no definitive answer. It's like walking a dark path at night by the light of your cell phone. You can't see very far in front of you, so you press forward cautiously and even still your eyes sometimes miss a rut in the path and you stumble a bit. Sometimes you may fall and that's ok too.

But when you have gathered yourself there on that path, and you are able to stand to your feet with your light once more, press forward again, leaving some of those sparkles wherever you go.

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