Art by Cady

I received this portrait a while ago, from an artist named Cady Driver. It is her vision of my Sammy, healthy and whole in heaven. It is truly inspired. Every time I walk by the painting in my hallway, I think of my happy, healthy Sam.

As I read my emails and scanned my stats, I know that many parents of children with a fatal diagnosis come across my blog. I want them, in particular, to know about Cady and the precious ministry she has for families like ours. If you are interested in sponsoring a memory painting or having a memory painting done of your little one, please visit this link for more information.

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Better…

I have walked through the losses and blessings of the past few years with less than a graceful step. My initial reaction to Sam’s diagnosis, the greatest of these losses, was to cuss out God. I’m not kidding. I got in the car, held my belly, and screamed bloody murder at him for taking my son so violently from me, words that I cannot repeat. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that. Maybe you shouldn’t know how bound for hell my heart is, in my humanity. Or maybe you should because, Reader, you need to see how I’ve stumbled and crawled along the path set before me… to see that in order to come from where I started, there had to be a miracle… a heart miracle… to come to the point I’ve reached this morning. It is not a point of arrival. I will not be there until I get to heaven and, with these eyes, see God. Not a point of arrival, but a point of surrender.

I need to write it down to stab this flag into the ground, before my dusty, journeying feet, in this beautiful, aweful Valley. The flag is one of both surrender and triumph. I am staking my claim. This is my life. This is my faith. This is my path. No one may have it, not the Enemy, not the world, not riches or health or recognition. No one may have it but the One who made me and formed this path before me. I do not understand Him. I do not understand His ways. But this place, this Holy Ground upon which I stake my claim, He may have it.

He has put His hand over my heart, as a protection, in the days that followed Sam’s death. Even after Ezra was born, my blessing baby, my prayers were silent. I was afraid of Him. I am still, really. How do I trust a God who so easily devastates me? How do I entrust him with my needs, my hopes? He put His hand over my heart and guarded it in my angry silence because He is patience. And then, recently, He began to hold His hand a little heavier over my heart. Gentle pressure. I have been granted gracious silence for some time, and now it is time to speak. He has asked me what I will choose, as we have come to a crossroads.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. This is what I choose.

It is not all better now. I still live in a broken world. My son’s lifeless body is buried in the grave still. Still, my losses have not been answered, and I do not understand why. But I have come to a new heart understanding of the Psalmist’s proclamation, Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

I have seen where unyielding bitterness takes a person. And I have seen where faith in God takes a person. I am terrified of God. Terrified. He allows things to happen, for the sake of the bigger story (the Kingdom), and I am devastated before Him. But this life is better. It is better to sing God’s praises. It is better to be a doorkeeper, to remain in His presence, in His steady home, than to take my tent where I can control the placement of my tent stakes. Better is one day in Your courts.

Sam’s story featured on Shaped with Love

Hi readers! Sam’s story was featured on Dr. Megan Osbourne’s ministry blog, Shaped with Love. “God has given me this ministry to equip moms to nurturing a healthy body esteem within themselves and their little ones,” Dr. Osbourne told me. “A foundational piece of my ministry is sharing how God fearfully and wonderfully made our children and ourselves too.”

As you all know, I love when others learn about my special boy. I love that even more people will learn about my fearfully and wonderfully made little Sammy. Click here to see the entry.

I will eventually get back to writing more regularly, especially about things of the Lord and of the heart. I am finding that having a summer baby is fun in that so many are able to visit to meet him, but I am also ready to get back into a routine. We have a little more traveling to do, and then we’re sinking into a quiet fall season. I hope everyone is enjoying the rest of their summer!

Waiting for _____

36 Weeks 3 Days

We will fill in the blank with his awesome name when he finally gets here! I cannot wait to introduce you to our little bundle of joy.

I am 37 weeks pregnant now, which means I have officially reached full-term. I looked down at my belly yesterday, and said, “OK, get out.” And he kicked really hard as if to say, “I will get out when I darn well feel like getting out.” So he’s still in. Truthfully, he can stay in and bake as long as he needs to. I am enjoying every minute I have with him, mothering him in this way.

I am mostly ecstatic as Baby’s birthday gets closer. But I also wrestle with heavier and darker feelings associated with my grief. Now, before any of you shoot off an email or comment detailing why I shouldn’t feel this way (happens almost every time I’m transparent about my uglier feelings), please remember that I am writing this down for other mothers who have experienced loss and are carrying their little rainbow baby. Sometimes, even if the feelings are ugly, it’s comforting to know that you’re not the only one who has felt that way, and that there is victory to be had despite it all. The following is not up for critique.

I am sometimes troubled with feeling jealous of this baby for Sam, for the health and life I had so hoped for for my first son. I eventually have to embrace the unique path for both of my boys’ lives. One lived a very short but important life, and it is my job as his mother to grieve him well, to keep him in a safe place in my heart, to talk about him when appropriate, and let him be who he is, even if that means that he is absent during times I wish he were present. My second son is a different personality. He looks different (from the detailed ultrasounds we’ve enjoyed so far). He seems to have quite a few years ahead of him, God willing, and I look forward to getting to know him very, very soon. Sam was not and this one will not be born solely for my fulfillment, but rather to live their own lives and, in turn, teach me to die to myself. In this, my sons have given me and are giving me great reward. These are my boys.

It is a hard thing to unlearn something my heart has memorized. When I was pregnant with Sam, my heart was pierced so deeply with the uniqueness of that walk. The goal was to stay pregnant for as long as I could. Outside of my body, Sam could not survive. The day I made it to the third trimester was a big triumph, but it was also terrifying because it was one day closer to goodbye. I felt his kicks. We read to him and prayed over him. God gave me a knowledge about him that I believe was a miracle–I was allowed to get to know my son in utero in a way that most mothers do after birth. His birthday was more joyful than I could have imagined, given the loss, but it was also goodbye. Sometimes it is too much to fathom that this little one’s birthday will mean hello, not goodbye. But I remind myself of this constantly, that June 23 is not a date to dread. It is the goal, not the enemy. It’s an effort to erase the battle tactics from Sam’s pregnancy that were tattooed on my heart, and that tattoo will never really go away. I will never be a giddy and naive pregnant mama again, and that’s OK. I grieved that at first, but I am glad to be battle scarred now. The part of the tattoo that is left behind is precious, and it is this: the joy of knowing how precious life is, how our souls need the wholeness of heaven even from birth, and knowing this in a way that I never could have known had Sam not entered my life in the way that he did.

I often get the inevitable question, “Is this your first?” For all anyone can see, it is. We have no other children with us. But Sam was my first. So when Steven or I get the question, we have become comfortable with answering, “This is our second.” Sometimes people leave it at that, and sometimes they ask questions. For me, not acknowledging the existence of my first son fuels the evil that revels in skyrocketing abortion statistics. Babies are important enough to fight for in the political arena. They are important enough to picket in front of Planned Parenthood. Why would I not find him important enough to acknowledge in a conversation? I live a life of faith, of hope in things unseen. Why would I dismiss my firstborn simply because I cannot see him anymore? So, this is how I answer that inevitable question, and this is the conviction behind it. Acknowledging my late son does, indeed, makes others feel uncomfortable sometimes, but on this point, I refer to the wise of words of John Eldredge, “Let them feel the weight of who you are.” It’s not my job to maintain the comfort of others, only to serve God with all of my being. And this is the cross I joyfully bear. I am the mother of a son in heaven, and the mother of a son yet to be born, both of whom are equally my sons. Feel that weight.

Fear and doubt plague me often. I’ve found myself wondering how we would have another funeral. I’ve caught my thoughts straying toward bloody and traumatic catastrophe. I’ve felt my heart bracing itself, when there is joy to be had instead of safety. It’s not fair to Sam, and it’s not fair to this baby. I have found that the best way to fight is to take steps of faith and hope, even if I don’t feel faithful or hopeful. Steven put together the crib, though we both fear it may never be filled. I registered for baby things and had a baby shower, though I sometimes wonder if I am foolishly celebrating something I may never actually get to have. When we learned that it’s a boy, and we began to use his name, it felt like jumping off a cliff and hoping we’d never hit bottom. Like his name flew out of our mouths and sealed a fate I feared. Even announcing the pregnancy was a big step of faith. Declarations that he is real… that he is a person with a name… that he is, indeed our second son…. these things were terrifying, but they are how to win the battle. I owe this little boy my hope, just as I owed it to Sam while he was alive. Making these declarations, moving forward in these seemingly trivial ways, were how I said, “Sam’s life was not a tragedy, though I do not understand his death. I will not maim his memory and withhold my hope for my second son by succumbing to fear. Death, where is your sting?”

When I fight like this, when I win the battle, I am left with an excitement for the unique path that is laid before my second son. I don’t know what God has in store for him, and it may even bring me more sorrow for me, but I am so proud of Samuel and everything he was and is. I just know I will be equally proud of this little boy. All of our children, no matter how perfect or flawed their genetics, will know suffering in their lives. Jesus tells us, “In this world, you will have trouble.” You will know suffering. “But take heart,” He says. “I have overcome the world.” How could I not embrace the triumph, the glory, the hard-won battle my second son can know in this life, though he is born into a broken world?

I am so looking forward to introducing this little man to you.