Monday, March 4, 2019

Morning Stories with Lily

Normally I use the time that Lily is eating her breakfast to clean up the dishes, get her lunch ready, and a variety of other tasks that need to be done. Recently, I recalled how my mother used to use breakfast time to teach us Bible stories. This was something she did with all of us (4 kids) at the table, even though there was a 12 year span between myself and my youngest sister.

Even after I ‘graduated’ from the breakfast table Devotions, and had my own quiet time, I remember listening to her talk about God and the Bible with my brother and sisters as they ate their breakfast. And usually, the Bible learning time would extend beyond just the normal time it took to eat.

My mother may not have known it, but she was setting an example of starting the day with the most important thing – the Word of God. She did not worry about the dishes, she did not jump into other academic subjects (since she taught us at home). She started the morning with the most important task that God gave her to do as a mother: teach her children about Him.

And I know she got this model from her own mother, my Grandmother Watts. My mommy tells about coming into the kitchen and seeing her mother in her big red chair with her cup of coffee and her Bible. Her mother prioritized her time reading God’s Word, and she passed that on to her children. The image and the action of my Grandmother was etched in my mother’s heart, and now it’s an example for me too.
 
I’m hoping to begin a little journey with my own daughter, Lily. A journey of reading God’s Word (or a form of a Bible story) at the breakfast table. Lily is 22 months old, so, it may be short and basic. But hopefully foundational.

And, as most things in the littlest years, they aren’t as much for the child as they are for the parent J So I’m hoping to re-ignite my own desire for God’s Word through teaching it to Lily!

I am hoping to record this journey through “Facebook LIVE” videos. I am doing this primarily because I love photos/video and documenting all the moments that make up our lives. The reason to do it via FB Live is primarily to eliminate the time and stress it takes to edit it, or make it "perfect" before archiving it or posting it.  I have never done a LIVE video like this before, so I’m a little nervous. Anything can happen with a toddler!

I'm also doing it via FB Live in case it might be of any encouragement to other parents out there looking for some way to incorporate Bible reading into their toddler's life! Of course, let's see how cooperative Lily is before we decide if it is successful or not!

To get the FB live jitters out, last week, I recorded the first few days just to see what it might look like :)  I'll post those pre-recorded videos starting tomorrow and the next few days.  Eventually, I’ll do a LIVE one, and see how that goes J

One other note: I am not committing to do this every day. I am not committing to always do it at the same time every day, though Lily usually wakes up between 7:00-8:00am J I am also not committing to finish the book. Those are all goals I’d love to put out there, but this is a test and I don't know how it will go. I am trusting the Lord to lead us, and take it where He wants it. For Lily’s and my benefit and for His glory.

Thanks for journeying with me, and with Lily, as we study the Bible together!

The text we will use is: The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

A prayer for today

Today could have been the day. It could have been the day we would have been anticipating for 9 months. It could have been filled with expectation, and perhaps a scheduled c-section, or an induction, or the famous castor oil procedure to bring on labor "naturally." It wouldn't have matter how she arrived, we would have been over-the-moon about our new little baby girl.

And yet, we lost that hope back in July as we were told there was no longer a heartbeat in our baby, who had been growing for nearly 22 weeks, inside of me. As we went through those excruciating next days of flying from Delaware back home to Florida and of me giving birth to our baby girl, we clung to the only thing we knew was secure - the promises of God.

And so, we named our little girl, Promise.

Today, Lord, remind me of your Promises. You gave me my little Promise so that whenever I thought of her, I would be reminded of your promises to me.

She could have been here with us this month. We could have been able to see and hold her and love her.

And yet, she is being held and loved - by you now, in a deeper way that she ever would know on earth.

We could have perhaps had the joy and gift of another daughter. We could have perhaps been able to watch her grow, and laugh, and smile. Even this Christmas, we could have had two little girls to marvel over!

But instead you had better plans for Promise, and for us. Promise has never had to walk through the pain of this world - she has only ever known your presence - what a joy for her!

And we too have known your presence in a way we never could have known without you allowing us this experience.

Of course, I wish there was another way for us to gain this blessing, but this is the path you have given us.

Remind me today, that you are in control, that you have given me the life I have, that you are above ALL things, and you have decided this is a GOOD place for me.

Remind me that I can trust you - you are God after all. The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places.

Help me to see that this is indeed a beautiful land. Help me remember that this remarkable harvest you have brought me to is only possible through the work of nurturing and cultivating. Remind me that life results only because of the death required in pruning and harvesting.

Only from the work of living a perfect life and the death of Your only son came the life that I can have in you.

And in a much smaller way, only from work of laboring Promise into the world, and only from her death can come whatever will come, for Your glory.

Today might have been the day when medical professionals would tell us to expect Promise's arrival, but it is so much more than that.

It is YOUR day. Your day to be glorified in all things.

Thank you that every day is your day, no matter what comes.


Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup,
you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance

~ Psalm 16:5-6

Video from the Funeral and burial of our daughter, Promise
This video also contains pictures from our time with Promise at the hospital.



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I'm okay

It has been ONE month since we said hello and goodbye to Promise.

The world has gone on, and...so have we, strangely.

What else can we do?

I shared last night with Jason about how sometimes the emotions of missing Promise and all that was lost, are overwhelming.

Every time I see a "big sister" or "little sister" shirt, I feel something I didn't used to feel. Every time I see two girls playing together, I think about Lily and Promise. Every time I think about all the TIME that was lost (in the trying to conceive, in the pregnancy itself), I feel like a big chunk of my life was just omitted, with nothing to show for it.  I get frustrated sometimes, but mostly just grieve all over again.

But honestly, most of the time, I'm okay.

I told Jason that I actually feel guilty that I am not more sad, or stuck in a room somewhere overcome by tears.

As I went on, upset by the fact that I was not more upset, finally Jason said to me, "Do you remember when we went to the ultrasound (when we found out there was no heartbeat)?"

I said, "Yes."  I then followed up with: "That was the worst moment..." I hesitated, and then confidently said, "Yeah, that was the worst moment of my life...That was worse than the labor. I would rather go through the whole night of awkward labor again than relive hearing that 10 second life-haulting message from the doctor."

He said, "Do you remember what you did then?"

Yes.  Jason and I both remember: My whole body crumpled, responding in complete collapse at the worst grief I could have imagined.

He said, "We have grieved. We will still grieve....but, like King David said when he lost his son, " Why should I fast when [the child] is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23).  We are sad, we do miss Promise...but God is giving us strength to continue in life, to move forward. It doesn't mean that somehow we haven't or aren't grieving enough."

God is providing the strength we need to remember Promise, but also to not be overcome by the reality of her death.

This is a gift - and I want to embrace it, rather than look for ways that it might not be right.

Maybe I am naive when it comes to grieving this kind of a loss, and maybe there are harder days to come - well, actually I know that there are.  But, for now, He has sprinkled our lives with joy -- mostly through watching Lily learn and grow!


Jason reminded too that in the past, I have often allowed my joy to be squashed by feeling guilty about something that I shouldn't feel guilty about.

So, while I fully anticipate more moments of tears and longing, I am going to try to let myself be okay when I do feel joyful, or when I laugh, as these are certainly good gifts from the Lord.

Speaking of which, here is a moment of joy for which I am indeed thankful.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

Any Siblings?

Today (August 6th), emotions hit me from a new angle.

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At Lily's eye doctor appointment (for a slightly clogged tear duct), the nurse asked me a variety of questions about Lily's life.

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She asked things like, "Are there any dogs in the home?" "Does anyone smoke in the house?" etc.

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Then she asked this one, " Does Lily have any siblings?"

I hesitated for what felt like a loooong time.

My thoughts immediately wanted to respond, "Well...she did.... I mean, she does... I mean...I just held Lily's little sister a few weeks ago, but... she's not here anymore.....I mean, basically...I just had a miscarriage..."

But, I swallowed my thoughts, and managed to remember that this was simply a black and white questionnaire. I realized the question really meant to ask: "Does Lily currently have any living siblings, or if she did - did any of them have eye/vision issues..."

So I simply said, "No."

And then ALMOST fell apart. But I didn't.

Between trying to appease Lily's hungry grunts by looking in the diaper bag for snacks, and trying to pay attention to the nurse's next questions, my emotions were blocked in a healthy way, in that moment. Thankfully, I could put them on hold to focus on the task at hand.
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But now I can reflect a bit more on the morning.

In spite of this painful question, the morning at the hospital was wonderful. Once again, in the midst of the real, gut wrenching painful truth, there is hope.

There is life. There is beauty.

Actually, there was this tree in the reception area. Somewhat awkwardly placed, and also somewhat gaudy, but also pretty at the same time. I imagine it's lights look even more attractive when it's dark outside.

But, what meant a lot to me was the sign next to it.
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If you can't quite see the words, the sign basically says that in Japan, the cherry blossom tree is a reminder of fragility and beauty of life - and that these trees bloom only for a short time each year in April. They serve as a reminder of how precious and precarious life can be - and that the Japanese people are reminded by these trees to remember those who have been lost.

The last sentence surprised me: "This tree stands in honor of families and friends of Nemours Children's Hospital coping with a loss this holiday season."

Maybe I'm missing something.  Or maybe "the first day of school," has recently been labeled a holiday? Or maybe they forgot to take the tree down from Easter? What "holiday season" occurs in August?

Or maybe...just maybe, this tree is meant to be here for me, for today, for Promise.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:9-11)

In addition to this good gift given to me by the Lord, Lily and I had a joyful time adventuring to her appointment together.

We especially enjoyed the massive windows outside of the Ophthalmology department from which we could look out and see the world below.

A new angle, a new view, a dose of emotions, remembrance for Promise, and a thankful heart for my little Lily.
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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Flowers, Books and Booties

(Note: For those who follow this blog, I know this is my first update in a while. The most recent thing that has happened in our lives is that we lost our little girl, Promise, - born at 22 weeks gestation. Thus, there may be a few posts connected to that event, including this one. I am writing a bit more about it on another blog - if you are interested in that one, let me know)

A week or so ago, I threw away the first of the flowers that people had sent for Promise’s funeral. I knew that time would eventually come.
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But it was good. I reflected again on the service and Promise’s life - which is, of course, pretty much what I do all day right now anyway.
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The flowers were not just tangible reminders of Promise and of beauty in the midst of pain, but also of the family and friends who love us deeply and care for us so well.


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A few hours after I threw some of the flowers away, Jason brought in two packages from the mail.

The timing of these packages arriving the same day I was starting to throw the flowers away was not just a random happening.

I see it as God's reminder to me He always and continually provides ways for us to know His love and care for us.

One package was from an aunt.  The other was from a high school friend who I haven’t seen in probably 15 years.

My aunt sent two books.

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How had my aunt known that earlier that day I would be searching for some kind of devotional book to read exactly like this one: "Grieving the Child I Never Knew?"  Actually, I had even saved this particular book to possibly order later. Now I didn’t have to, and I didn’t even need to look up any more, I could simply start with this one. Thank you.

And how did she know that this book “Mommy, Please don’t cry - there are no Tears in Heaven” would bring the most joyful of tears I may have ever cried.

To think of Promise in Heaven, and to imagine what she might want to tell me in this moment is so painfully wonderful. Oh! It is so good and this book takes me right there. Thank you.

My high school friend sent a pair of teeny tiny carefully crocheted white booties, with a note. A woman in her community makes these for families who have lost their babies.

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They were amazingly perfect just on their own.

But then I put them next to Promise’s actual footprint we have from the hospital, and was blown away by the fact that actually, they would have fit her little feet.

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Is God not this exact in his measurements of love and grace for us?

He cares for us beyond what we know…and then…sometimes like in this moment, we do know. Or at least have a little bit of a taste of it.

And, it is oh, so good. Thank you Lord.

I must add another BIG thank you here to those who have sent emails, facebook messages, texts, cards, gifts, meals and to those who have prayed. I know that this road would be much harder without the support of those around us, and of those far away! You mean so much to us.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

No Social Media for a Month - 11 reasons

Except for Lily’s 10 month picture, I’m going to cut out all social media for the month of February.

Why? Here are a variety of reasons:

1) To help with physical pain: My right hand gets cramped, and this is now the second time that it’s happened where anything I do causes it pain. It’s not severe, but annoying enough to where I need to rest it.  And I know that it is due to using my phone too much (i.e. too much social media).

2) To help me focus on real life: It’s too easy to flip through a newsfeed looking at everyone else’s baby, or their family, when my baby is playing nearby and I could be spending those precious moments with her. #guilty #regret

3) To take away an escape from life: When I don’t want to do something, let’s say: cook a semi-involved dinner, or when I don’t want to engage with someone, let’s say: a hard discussion with Jason, it’s too easy to retreat to the semi-fake world of facebook for a while. This promotes running away, hiding, and basically not dealing with the real world. #faceit

4) To give me time to do other things: I’m curious to see just how much time is in my day when I cut social media out. Maybe it won’t be as much as I thought. Maybe it will be a lot - it’s hard to predict because typically social media is just minutes here and there. 

5) To provide a space to do something else more meaningful: I want to strategically choose to do something “instead” of checking facebook. What can I do in those moments standing in the grocery line when I might normally flip through instagram? 

6) To intentionally start my day my way: By removing the temptation to check on everyone else’s life first thing in the morning, I can choose to start my day however I want, without the distractions of everyone else’s joys or frustrations.

7) To intentionally end the day my way: I can now choose to read a book, or listen to music. Of course, I could do those things without completely removing social media from my life - but for me, it’s an “all or nothing” kind of thing, and the strictness of “nothing” will help me say no in the moment.

8) To reduce comparison: I don’t feel like I compare myself to others as a result of facebook or instagram, but how can you really measure this? It’s such a subtle thing, and I’m sure I do it more than I realize.  Someone else’s struggles can too easily make me feel better about myself than I should. Someone else’s joys can too easily make me feel worse about myself than I should. I can never fully avoid comparing myself to others, but removing social media will certainly reduce it significantly.

9) To reduce the need to impress: I'd like to think I post things simply to share my life with others, but if I’m honest, it’s basically to make myself look good in some way. How can it not be? While some posts may be intended as a harmless, ‘this is what I did today,’ all posts unintentionally, but loudly declare: “look at me.” 

10) To break the stress that my 2018 goals have already caused me! I wanted to take a picture every day in 2018, and post it. While this has been fun for the month of January, it has also been a source of stress. Getting that perfect picture takes forever. Thinking of something new to photograph is kind-of tiring, and it’s only been 30 days. Deciding which filter to use, if any, is mostly annoying. And then I have to write a witty caption?  I feel pressure (self-inflicted) to get it right (aka: perfect), and since I can’t, or at least I am never satisfied with it, I am letting it go, at least for now. I do plan to take a picture every day (this is pretty easy, thanks to Lily) - but these pictures will be just for personal enjoyment.

11) To reduce depression: I just found this link, so am leaving it here as the 11th reason I'm taking a break. (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/09/07/492871024/facebook-and-mortality-why-your-incessant-joy-gives-me-the-blues)  

So, those are my 11 reasons to cut it out of my life at least for a time.

But….I know that to deprive all of my followers (who are now really Lily’s followers primarily), of pictures of Lily, would be a grave offense.

So for now, I'll leave this 1 picture here, take a couple weeks ago.  It might be my favorite picture of Lily and me so far :-)

Also, I plan on jumping on social media around February 20th for her 10 month marker, to share with you all the ways Lily has grown and developed in the past month :)

Til then, thanks for your support, and understanding of my absence! See ya later!



Monday, January 22, 2018

Remembering who God is

I am in the midst of a season of anxiety. And okay, sure - let's lump in depression in there too -since they often to gather. It's not necessarily debilitating, but it is pervasive. It affects all areas of my life - and Lord knows it basically ruins my mood on any given day, no matter what is going on.

I’m trying to figure out how to be a Mommy to Lily, how to work my job, how to keep up with the house, the meals, and the laundry...to name a few mostly minor things that almost all people deal with all the time.

I know, I know - “just wait til you have another kid,” or “just wait until something really bad happens…” I realize that there are more challenges ahead (Lord willing!). And, I realize that comparatively speaking, my life is indeed spectacular. I get that.

Of course, the danger with comparison is that it either reinforces pride, or sharply stabs you with weighty guilt.

For me, right now, in the midst of my spectacular life, I’m still just trying to understand all the pieces of it and how I can get them to work together fluidly, which perhaps is futile.


Yes, I’ll admit, I’m struggling primarily because I am still resisting the fact that I am not in control, that I can’t do it all, that I do make mistakes, and therefore: I am not perfect.


UGH.


Growing up is hard because it is so continual. It is never done. It is never complete.


This truth was reinforced quite powerfully after I became a Mommy. And perhaps it is still only a gentle revealing of all I still have yet to realize...did I say yet that our growing up is never ever fully finished?


I am coming to understand that whatever is causing my unhappiness, my unsettledness, my constant state of anxiety is not Lily’s fault, it is not Jason’s fault, it is not because of the weather, and it is not because of the dog….well, at least not all the time.


Like Eve, in the Garden, I too look for someone or something to blame when I feel the consequences of my own failure to trust God’s good plans for me.


While there are serious clinical diagnosis for anxiety and depression, I am sure that 99% of the time, my own specific struggle with it is spiritual.


I don’t mean that the answer is as simple as: read your Bible more. Finding stability and peace is deeper than just checking something off a list in hopes that something you do will save your life.


The reality is that we are not capable of saving ourselves.


The root of my confusion in life, or uncertainty about my who I am, or the overall tight shoulder muscles because I'm not taking full breaths, is because I am looking to myself for the answer and in turn completely forgetting to remember who God is.


When I let myself think about God, just for a minute, I am no longer anxious. I am no longer upset. How can I be?


Still, I so often need help focusing on what is true and what is good, when the frustration, the anger, and the discontentment wells up inside me.


For now, for today, let me listen as someone else reflects on who God is and what He has done.


This is From 2 Samuel 22...David sang this to the Lord when the Lord delivered him from his enemies. David was as good as dead - most likely filled with anxiety. He reflects on God’s awesomeness and faithfulness. David cannot help but sing His praises because His deliverance so clearly could not have come from himself - it had to be the Lord.

David’s response to his salvation is a humble recognition that he is helpless, but he is not without the Help of the only One who can bring life from inevitable destruction. David’s dependence is not on himself, but on the Lord.


“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
  my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
   my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
   from violent people you save me.
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
   and have been saved from my enemies.
In my distress I called to the Lord;
   I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
   my cry came to his ears.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
   he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
   from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
   but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
   he rescued me because he delighted in me.
You, Lord, are my lamp;
   the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop;
   with my God I can scale a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect:
   The Lord’s word is flawless;
   he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the Lord?
   And who is the Rock except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength
   and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
   he causes me to stand on the heights.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
   so that my ankles do not give way.
The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
   Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
   I will sing the praises of your name.

Morning Stories with Lily

Normally I use the time that Lily is eating her breakfast to clean up the dishes, get her lunch ready, and a variety of other tasks that ne...