A friend e-mailed this meme to me, so I thought I would post it here. I don't want to tag anyone, but feel free to take it if you're looking for something to do...
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper
2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial
3. When do you put up the tree? Right after Black Friday
4. When do you take the tree down? Sometime before summer -- Just kidding. Before New Year's Eve.
5. Do you like eggnog? Blech -- NO!
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Giant Boy and Girl doll set, though the heads later fell off.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Not yet.
8. Hardest person to buy for? ???? James and Jerald (his brother)
9. Easiest person to buy for? Matthew
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A crocheted finger puppet poodle -- still mad about that one.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I think it will be Fred Claus...we'll see this weekend.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Seriously, do you have to ask? Black Friday, of course. 13 hours straight this year.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes. What do you think you're getting? Teehee!
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Cheese ball. Pie. Christmas chocolates.
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear
17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay Home.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Only if I sing the song... You know Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and so on.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Neither -- some decorator bulb-like thing. It's new.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? That I feel compelled to buy so much. I'd like to be creative and make some things, but that never happens.
23. What I love most about Christmas? Family and Friends, Fun and Games, Good Food and Lots of it, Sales and Bargains, Generosity, Being allowed to shop without question and give generously, A General Sense of Goodwill, People who normally wouldn't recognizing Jesus Christ.
WISHING YOU ALL A WONDERFUL & JOYOUS CHRISTMAS SEASON
Friday, November 30, 2007
Posted by Amanda at 8:27 PM
I was going to post about how much less generous I feel and how much less heart-warming my kids' giving lists were at Wal-Mart at 5:30 P.M. on payday Friday. I was going to post about how though I normally love Christmas and shopping and even crowds, I feel more bah-humbuggy when facing crowded parking lots, long lines, and grumpy cashiers. I was going to post all of that, but then I found this:
We've been elfed -- Check it out! Good for a Christmas chuckle.
Posted by Amanda at 7:49 PM
Thursday, November 29, 2007
There's been alot of communication today about us leaving CR -- notes from our pastors, plans to debrief. In the midst of changing, our work goes on. (We still have to be ready for Monday.) Tonight I read a testimony to be delivered this week, and I realized just how sad it was to go.
The testimony comes from a man that to look at him, you'd never guess there was an issue ever in his life. Tall and handsome, he was always well-dressed in clothes that cost way more than James' car. He was a success in his line of work, and someone who generally commanded respect. I remember when he first came to group. He was so sour. He came in late and always left early. He seemed to think everyone else was wrong. To keep his marriage intact, he agreed to the step study, and over the course of the year, he's become completely new. Now he comes because his life has been changed, and you can see it even on his face. He's in the door early, and some nights we nearly have to push him back out the door.
Today, when I was thinking of those we were leaving, his face is one of the first that came to my mind. It's so strange how these people have caputured my heart in such an unusual way. I feel so protective that to think of handing them off to anyone else makes me feel so, so afraid. It's the same kind of concern I felt when considering leaving my kids with sitters -- which I've not yet done.
I know our season has come to an end. I'm excited about what God has in store for us and for the leaders who will serve in our stead. But even at that, it's so sad to leave the loved and familiar.
Posted by Amanda at 7:33 PM
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Ah, the total randomness that is this blog.
I just wanted to say how much I love The Big Bang Theory on CBS. It is one show I Tivo and make time for. I love the cerebral humor of the physics academics (though I think they refer to themselves as nerds), and I particularly love how crazy Sheldon's brilliance makes him. I even laugh at the goofy science jokes, though they bore James to sleep.
This week's episode, though, was top on my list. Leonard and Sheldon delivered a piece of furniture to their neighbor Penny's apartment and Sheldon was generally disturbed by her slobbishness. He was driven to clean and organize, and his compulsion made me laugh out loud in that way my husband makes fun of. (Guffaw, guffaw, snort!)
A little of the dialogue I'm sure is better seen in person:
Leonard: "Did it ever occur to you that not everyone has the compulsive need to sort, organize, and label the entire world around them?"
Leonard: "Well, they don't. Hard as it may be for you to believe, most people don't sort breakfast cereal numerically by fiber content."
Sheldon: "Excuse me, but I think we both found that helpful at times."
Leonard: "C'mon, we should go."
Sheldon: "Hang on." (Picking up magazines.)
Leonard: "What are you doing?"
Sheldon: "Picking up."
Leonard: "Sheldon, this is not your home."
Sheldon: "No, this is not anyone's home. It's a swirling vortex of entropy."
Leonard: "You know, when the transvestite lived here, you didn't care how he kept the place."
Sheldon: "Because it was immaculate. I mean, you open that man's closet, it was left to right -- evening gowns, cocktail dresses, then his police uniforms."
Later, Sheldon breaks into Penny's apartment to clean while she sleeps:
Sheldon: "Shhh...Penny's sleeping."
Leonard: "Are you insane?! You can't just break into a woman's apartment in the middle of the night and clean!"
Sheldon: "I had no choice. I couldn't sleep knowing that just outside my bedroom was our living room, and just outside our living room was that hallway, and immediately adjacent to that hallway was (sniff, sniff) this."
Leonard: "Do you realize that if Penny wakes up there is no reasonable explanation as to why we're here?"
Sheldon: "I just gave you a reasonable explanation."
Leonard: "No, no -- you gave me an explanation. Its reasonableness will be determined by a jury of your peers."
Sheldon: "Don't be ridiculous (while folding clothes) -- I have no peers."
The argument continues until Sheldon ends by telling Leonard, "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean." I'm just wondering, where is my Sheldon? Seriously, no charges would be pressed against my middle-of-the-night methodizer. Bring on organization while I sleep -- what a dream come true!
Posted by Amanda at 8:45 AM
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I had a thought process earlier today, but got sidetracked with some other posts and various at-home responsibilities. Back to my current state of mind, which I should probably clarify.
Indeed, I feel broken today. As usual, as always.
I had lunch with a very pregnant friend. She will have her baby in seven days. This kind of encounter always seems to set the course of my day, though our friendship and this pregnancy is extraordinarily special. She walked this path of loss before me and beside me for months.
We were pregnant simultaneously. We were two or three days apart in pregnacy with her Benjamin and my Ainsley. I lost Ainsley in October, and Benjamin died in January at 22 weeks. By then, I was already pregnant again with Zachary and was trucking right along. I remember the pain she felt and how uncomfortable it made me feel. I remember her sense of loss and her hopelessness and the fear that pain caused in me. She was so open about her pain, and it was so difficult to watch since who knows what tomorrow holds. I couldn't fix her, I could hardly help her. I had no answers and nothing to offer, save to pray. With the intensity of what she felt, I wondered if that was enough. I remember one beautiful Monday night where she pulled me behind a pillar to whisper that they were pregnant again, and oh my gosh, how she was scared. Scared, excited, saddened, relieved, and so many things at once. I was relieved for sure.
For a very brief time, we walked the pregnant path together again. She leaned on me to walk out some of those fears, and I leaned on her for some of my own. In April, Zachary died at 22 weeks, and my friend was immediately by my side. She has listened to me cry and scream and shake my fist. She has been able to wrap her mind around this extraordinarily horrible place where I sometimes live. She has listened to me beg and plead and pray for strength. She has lifted me up when my strength was gone.
In the midst of her supporting me, she has allowed me to support her. She still shares her fears and hopes for the baby growing now. She shares in her celebrations. She's not treated me any differently than before -- with the exception of checking to make sure the sharing is still ok and not a burden to my heart. In spite of her pain, and our shared journey of loss, she is ending her current pregnancy, and as you can imagine, having lunch with a friend a week outside of her delivery was not done with ease. My friend is doing great, obviously still concerned about the welfare of her coming son, but a little relieved (I think) to have only one more week to go. I think for the first time during this entire time I heard her talk in the future tense.
I, on the other hand, left lunch sadder than ever. It's impossible to imagine what kind of good God has for me, and sometimes that he has anything at all. In the midst of this struggle, it's easy to feel like a toy that slipped down in that crack behind the bed or between seats in the car, never to be seen or cared about again.
And then God, who I love and long to serve, constantly exceeds the bounds of my very limited understanding. He makes no sense to me so much of the time, so I'm really just striving in earnest to remain focused on His word. I need something on which to cling.
I had my normal biannual endocrinology appointment on Monday, which I'm sure adds to the sadness. It was a normal appointment for normal bloodwork, but because this "new" doctor (I've seen him only once before) has a specialty in reproductive medicine, he drew 8 vials of blood to run a panel of tests to see if he can determine why I'm prone to loss. He's looking for clotting disorders and autoimmune stuff (related to Lupus and the like). The chances of finding something with this test, though, is only about 10% -- even after 3+ losses. (Chances are 1% with one loss, 1-5% with two losses, and 5-10% with three. Not good odds, but a possible 10% is better than 0%, which is where I'm at now.)
I don't know what good any knowing will do -- I don't think it changes where I am or where I may be going. All of it, every bit of it, and every bit of every thing is completely and utterly out of the hands of this control freak, and that is not fun at all.
I posted an excerpt earlier about the potter and the clay, which is an analogy I love. I've worked with clay before, and it can be tricky business. Clay has to be pounded and pounded and pounded before a shape can even begin to take form. Everything has to be done just right. All of the bubbles and imperfections have to be worked out, because if they're not, that clay vessel will do nothing but explode. Once that clay hits the heat of the kiln, once it succumbs to that pressure, regardless of how beautifully it's shaped or how delicately it's painted, if internal imperfections remain, it cannot withstand the heat. Beauty doesn't take precedence over the imperfections hidden deep within. The potter has to pound and twist and shift and beat the clay until it's just right for forming into something worthwhile.
I've said before that I do not like the place I am at. Crosses aren't fun. Brokenness isn't either. But clearly, I need to be right where I'm at. I need to be broken. I need to be utterly destroyed. And then I need to be utterly remade by the most perfect Potter of all.
"I will obey your principles.
Please don't give up on me!...
I have tried my best to find you --
don't let me wander from your commands.
I have hidden your Word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you...
I will study your commandments
and reflect on your ways.
I will delight in your principles
and not forget your word...
I lie in the dust, completely discouraged;
revive me by your word.
I told you my plans, and you answered.
Now teach me your principles.
Help me to understand the meaning of your commandments,
and I will meditate on your wonderful miracles.
I weep with grief, encourage me by your word.
Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privelege of knowing your law.
I have chosen to be faithful;
I have determined to live by your laws.
I cling to your decrees.
Lord, don't let me be put to shame!
If you will help me,
I will run to follow your commands.
Psalm 119:8, 10-11, 15-16, 25-32 TLB
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight."
Posted by Amanda at 11:35 PM
"For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." (Ecc. 3:1) Things come in seasons, and we've had a big couple of days. Here's an e-mail just sent to our church staff:
I wanted to send an e-mail to let you all know that after months of prayerful consideration, James and I have opted to step down as ministry leaders for Celebrate Recovery at Valley Creek Church. Last night we asked [some amazing friends and leaders] to replace us, which they are prayerfully considering at the present time. We have absolute confidence in their abilities to both lead and delegate, and have confidence in the volunteer base already in place, so we are hopeful for a smooth transition of leadership. If they are unable to take over because of the responsibilies of their own lives, we hope to work with Pastor John to coordinate a suitable replacement for us. In the meantime, we will remain fully active as ministry leaders until the end of the year, and after that, we will remain in contact more on a consulting basis, as needed.
The fact is that with life changes and job changes, our respective personal lives have changed immensely since beginning this ministry in 2005. We find ourselves far too busy to give what we were once able to. Additionally, in March, we moved quite a distance away from Valley Creek, and have found it increasingly difficult to remain connected to the church. With the planned groups structure changing in January, and with small groups (that work in our current schedule) moving off campus, it will become even more difficult for us to find another day for a lengthy commute for fellowship and personal growth in a small group/ABF.
We believe it is necessary for us to find a fellowship closer to home, and those that top our list offer small groups in our neighborhood and have Celebrate Recovery programs already in place. It is this need for a church home closer to home that compels us to move on.
Again, we intend to remain fully involved until the end of the year, working towards making the continued growth of this group a success. We appreciate the opportunities given to us that allowed us to serve in this capacity for the last (almost) three years. We have been extraordinarily blessed.
Posted by Amanda at 10:01 PM
Bub got his first Webkinz last weekend from his friend Jack in honor of his 7th birthday. We made him wait to play the online portion until this weekend when all the holiday company was gone. (We didn't know how it all worked and wanted nothing to get lost.) Sunday, we got them all set up, and the kids have enjoyed playing the computer portion of Webkinz immensely. James has been upstairs alot "helping" them.
Tonight, as the kids are sleeping, I'm on the laptop and hear a whirring and general-noisemaking on the computer behind me.
"James, what are you doing?" I ask.
He replies in all seriousness, "I'm playing Webkinz. Is that ok?"
You know, I'm not sure if it is.
He says he's just playing the games that are allowed once daily because the kids forget to take advantage of them, but I don't know. It sounds like more than that going on. Maybe I know now what to buy him for Christmas -- a Webkinz friend of his very own!
Posted by Amanda at 8:59 PM
This Sunday we went to church with my mom where we heard a message about generosity. It was your general generosity message, but in it, the pastor was talking about how blessed it made him feel when he would overhear his seventeen-year-old and twenty-year-old whispering on the phone to one another as they planned their gift-giving for the ones they loved. He remarked how fortunate it was that a spirit of generosity had been cultivated in his kids.
Lately, we've been working to help that grow in our children. Recently, James commented on his blog that he was a little sad that our kids couldn't have cared less about a new board game that was a major part of his own childhood. They're more wowed by the latest video game system that inevitably takes up residence in our game room.
I don't know if it's because we both had little growing up, or if it's because we're crazy, but our kids are extraordinarily blessed (and quite spoiled, if we'll be honest). They want for very little from us, and have a ridiculously generous family to boot. As a result, there are times when they take much for granted. Lately, we've adopted a family mantra to be grateful for the things we have. (Last week, Bub parroted that back to me unprovoked, so maybe something's taking root.)
Back to Sunday -- we left the service very impacted, and I even more wanted to cultivate gift-giving in my kids. So, we came home to create a new family tradition: A Giving List. Instead of the traditional wants and needs that would fill a Christmas list of their own, the kids spent time thinking of gifts they wanted to give away to those close to their hearts. It was a lovely and heart-warming exercise. I was genuinely surprised at the thoughfulness that went into each gift choice. The gift ideas were reasonable and well-considered -- nothing silly like a new house or new car -- but rather, things the kids have observed a family member enjoying or asking for, or something that coincides with their personality.
I've already ordered online a few of the more hard to find things, but will immensely enjoy taking them shopping for gifts to give away.
Posted by Amanda at 8:36 PM
"Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me..."Can I not do with you as this potter does?...Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand." (Jeremiah 18:2-6)
Have you ever seen a potter at work on a potter's wheel? A vessel takes shape as the potter's hands mold and guide the upward flow of the clay. But then, if the vessel does not meet with the potter's approval -- perhaps becacuse of a flaw in the design or a bubble in the clay -- the clay is smashed down again onto the wheel, and the clay is reshaped. The potter's purpose is not to destroy his work, but rather, to make a more perfect work -- to shape and fashion something more beautiful and more functional.
In like fashion, God is at work in our lives, shaping and making us into the people he longs for us to be so that we might bring glory to him and be of maximum use to him in the building of his kingdom.
Which would you rather be? A vessel of your own design, based upon your finite mind and limited creativity, power, and wisdom -- a vessel of limited use and passing value? Or a vessel of his design, based upon his infinite wisdom, love, and power -- a vessel of unlimited use and eternal, unmeasured value?
In choosing to be fashioned by God, we inevitably must choose to yield to brokenness and to allow God to remake us and renew us as he desires -- even if that means suffering pain, hardship, and trials.
Brokenness can be a path towards great blessing, but only when we allow God to do the breaking and to design the blessing."
-- Charles Stanley
The Blessing of Brokenness
Posted by Amanda at 7:47 PM
bro·ken /ˈbroʊkən/ (adj.)
- reduced to fragments; fragmented.
ruptured; torn; fractured.
not functioning properly; out of working order.
changing direction abruptly.
fragmentary or incomplete.
infringed or violated.
interrupted, disrupted, or disconnected.
weakened in strength, spirit, etc.
tamed, trained, or reduced to submission.
imperfectly spoken, as language.
spoken in a halting or fragmentary manner, as under emotional strain.
disunited or divided.
not smooth; rough or irregular.
"Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress.
Tears blur my eyes.
My body and soul are withering away.
I am dying from grief;
my years are shortened by sadness.
Sin has drained my strength;
I am wasting away from within.
I am scorned by all my enemies
and despised by my neighbors—
even my friends are afraid to come near me.
When they see me on the street,
they run the other way.
I am ignored as if I were dead,
as if I were a broken pot."
Posted by Amanda at 7:28 PM
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Overall, this holiday week has been spectacular. I love those days where you just know memories have been made. Wednesday, I made my chili (which is quite good), and we had a buffet of frito chili pie fixin's, cornbread, and rice. James' family was here, along with some of mine, and we ate and talked and laughed. The kids played with cousins and performed musical numbers and dances. At the end of the evening, we lost power to our neighborhood (due to a wreck on the highway nearby), so we filled the house with candles and sat together in one room telling remember-when stories, while the kids told ghost stories in the dark.
The next morning, we ladies began preparing the Thanksgiving feast. We cooked way too much food, and spent way too much time in the kitchen when compared to the brief time it took everyone to get full. Then all the adults played Apples to Apples until it was time for bed. My mom went home, James' dad and grandma crashed, James and my brother began playing video games on the XBox 360, and my sister-in-law and I prepared to shop. We left the house just after midnight on Black Friday and shopped for 13 hours straight. (Yes, thirteen.) I would have gone for a few hours longer, but this was her first Black Friday and she was unprepared. After four hours of her complaints of back pain and tired feet, I allowed her to come home. (She's training now for next year's marathon -- hee hee!) When we returned, we ate a leftover lunch, wrapped all the presents and went to sleep. I slept from 5:00 P.M. Friday evening until 9:00 A.M. Saturday morning. I don't think I saw my kids at all that entire day!
The weekend was slower with much less company. I went back to the antique mall with my sister-in-law while the menfolk watched football, we decorated the tree, and played board games until it was time for bed. This morning, we went to church with my mom, treated the entire family to lunch at Babe's, and took the kids to see Enchanted when our houseguests left for good.
Overall, we've had a busy week of holiday festivities and all the things that go along, followed by the big Christmas shift where the shopping is nearly finished (thank God for Black Friday), the presents are all wrapped, the tree is assembled and decorated, and the house is turned into a Christmas wonderland. Tonight, I sit alone in front of a roaring fireplace listening to the crackle of the wood and the gurgle of my coffeepot as it finishes the brewing of a fresh pot of caramel truffle coffee. Of late, at this time on a Sunday night, I would be rushing to complete homework assignments for the week, but my classes are winding down. I've finished one already and will finish another this week. The final two have few demands, so for school, I have nothing to do. I think this moment is the first moment in a week that I've had the opportunity to sit down and just sit. To not do schoolwork, to not entertain anyone, but just sit. To read some blogs, to sip on that coffee, and just sit. The carol is correct -- it's the most wonderful time of the year indeed.
Posted by Amanda at 2:20 PM
Friday, November 23, 2007
Happy Black Friday!
Posted by Amanda at 12:05 AM
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
My kids are actually very good about not touching things that are off limits. I think that ability comes from a history of hand smacking any time they felt prone to fondle a Picasso while at the museum.
When we arrived, I explained to the kids that they couldn't grab or touch most of these things because they were antique. I explaned that antique means really old, and the exploration commenced. Because there was so much looking without touching, I made sure to take them into booths with things they could touch and bins they could dig through, and each having pocket money, they had a great time searching for interesting things to buy. Bub bought a purple metal robot and a handful of old Hot Wheels. Gracie bought a pink poodle and some ribbon for dancing.
As we looked around, Gracie got bored and wanted to sit with her poodle. Bub and I were still very interested in shopping, so she would move ahead a booth or two and sit respectfully on a rocker or a stool. One time, though, she sat on a settee that was extra springy and became unable to control her need to bounce. When it was clear the bouncing wasn't stopping, I told her to "get off the couch, because it's older than mommy."
Posted by Amanda at 1:48 AM
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Loss is such a hard and tricky thing. I've blogged in the past about crazy and insensitive things that people have said and done. I've linked to other's lists of said craziness. It seems when loss is the case, people struggle with foot-in-mouth syndrome, and I've compiled a brief list of ways to avoid it.
Just today, I was responding to a friend who recognizes there were probably different ways she could have handled the losses of others in her life, which is where this list comes from. Ultimately, who knows what's right and what's wrong? She may have said the right thing, she may have done the wrong thing, and whatever that thing was may vary in its rightness or wrongness from person to person and from loss to loss. My list is not at all inclusive, but rather just some ideas of things to try and to definately avoid based exclusively on my own experience. (Note: the book I've mentioned time and again -- Hannah's Hope -- offers many specific suggestions to those who minister to others who have lost through infertility, miscarriage, or adoption failure. It's a great book for any ministry catalogue.)
When you've been blessed to have never gone through a loss, it is impossible to understand what that parent is going through. Even when you've been through it, there's little understanding to be had. Some friends and my sister went through loss after loss before I was ever married, and I remember "thoughtful" things I said to them and cringe. Anyway, when you, as someone who hasn't had a loss, deal with someone who has, the most important piece of advice I could give to you is to merely extend compassion, which can be done in a variety of ways.
It means so much to have someone acknowledge your pain without trying to compare. Losing a baby is not like losing a parent or a pet or a friend. Every one of those things is hard, but in a remarkably different way. When someone dies, it's just best to never compare unless you personally understand that specific loss. Losing a dad is not the same as losing a mom. Losing a friend is not the same as losing a brother. Losing a baby is not the same as losing a pet or a job. An early miscarriage is not the same as a late miscarriage or stillbirth (and having had both, I know). Having one stillbirth is not the same as having four, and there's no way that even I can comprehend that pain. (I met a sweet woman last week who'd lost four babies this year -- all between 17 and 23 weeks. I don't know how she's survived.) And, though I have experienced the devestating pain of miscarriage and loss, I am completely aware that my losses in no way compare to losing a child whose lived among a family. Each situation is hard and heartbreaking, so compassion without comparison is key.
It means so much to have someone acknowledge your pain without trying to explain. There is nothing more ridiculous to have someone tell you that God had a better plan which is why your baby died, or that there must have been something wrong with the baby, or that it makes more sense this way because of A or B or C. When you're in the middle of the situation, even knowing that your child had hydrocephaly does not ease the pain. (My child did not have hydrocephaly, but I have another friend whose child did when he died in utero, and she hurt as much as me.) Not one person knows why another person had to die, and it doesn't matter how much people pray, most times things are not ever clearly explained. To try to impose an explanation is often more hurtful than it is helpful, so extending compassion without explanation is key.
How can you extend compassion?
You can extend compassion by helping a friend who has lost try to think of ways to memorialize her child. That baby matters. As God is knitting it together in its mother's womb, He's knitting it together to its mother's heart. When the baby dies and disappears, it takes a part of her heart along. Acknowledging that loss is remarkable -- remembering that something more than just a cluster of developing cells left her means more than you will ever know. There are many ways to memorialize a lost child: a Christmas ornament, a garden stone, a rosebush or tree, a donation made in the child's name, an engraved stone on a pathway (like at a library renovation or something), Willow Tree figurines, scrapbooks, and more.
You can extend compassion by attending to the needs your friend has to be comforted. When you lose a baby, it haunts you forever. The things celebrated in remaining children are bittersweet because the memory of what is no more remains forever. You think of who will never be seven, of who will never look just like their dad, of who will never fall in love with Legos or little girls. One of the sweetest thing friends have done for me personally is recognize strange times when it shouldn't hurt, but does. I'll get the look, or the "How is this for you?" Even if I'm really ok, it's nice to know that people remember and care.
You can extend compassion by remembering dates or seasons. Mommies who have lost babies have a different calendar than the rest. They're filled with anniversaries of dates people easily forget. It's amazing if you remember those specific dates and honor them with a call or a card, but even if all you do is remember a season, it means so much. Due dates, birth dates, and dying dates are all very important, as is Mother's/Father's Day, Christmas, and the Spring (Baby Dedications galore).
You can extend compassion by the random phone call. Today a friend called me about the laundry. She was at home washing baby things today and thought of me. Some random, tedious chore made her think of what was missing in my life, so she called to offer a listening ear. I spent a half-hour with her on the phone crying.
You can extend compassion by being available and being flexible. I had a baby shower to go to that was going to be difficult for me. A dear, dear friend offered to go with me to support me and steal me away if it got too hard. We had plans to meet for coffee beforehand (though I was painfully late), and by going with her, I was able to decompress when we left. During the shower, I got lots of the looks and the queries as to my well-being. I also I think she may have stuffed her bra with tissues, just in case. (Good for wiping noses and for getting a good laugh.) When I did get teary, she covered for me, and didn't argue when I needed to escape.
You can extend compassion by being there. When Zachary died, I lost friends. People who'd been a part of my life for over twenty years disappeared because they didn't know what to say. (Fortunately, I'm blessed with much closer relationships with people who realize there's nothing that can be said. Regardless, it's still sad to lose those old friends.) It's hard to come up with something wise to say, but it's truly better to say nothing "wise" at all. Go after your friend, and don't let the friendship fail. Take her to coffee, or sit with her at home. Watch a movie together, or sit side-by-side and stare into space. Let her talk, or not. Let her eat, or not. When she shakes her head in disbelief, you shake your head too. When she mumbles in that stunned way, agree with whatever she says. When she gets mad, get mad with her. When she cries, don't try to make her stop.
For those who have experienced loss, what are some of the things you wish people had done, or had done differently? For those who've dealt with those who have lost, what are some of your successes or regrets?
"Rejoice with those who rejoice;
mourn with those who mourn."
"If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"
Posted by Amanda at 12:06 AM
Monday, November 19, 2007
I love it when my kids worship. Because I have no spiritual heritage, it just blesses my heart when they do. Though they both worship spontaneously from time to time, Gracie is far more prone to it than Bub, which is often a source of contention, particularly in the car. There are many days when we're driving that she'll start singing and he'll start complaining. It's the "she's touching me" of our lives. In this situation, however, I always come to her defense. Without fail, I advise Bub that it's important to cultivate a worshipful heart -- that God loves it, and Mommy loves it, and "Hey, let's all sing along."
This morning as I was wrapping presents for Bub's party, Gracie wrote out her card. It was one she'd personally chosen that relays her intention to bug him through the new year. It's very cute, very funny, and very true. In it, she wrote a sweet sentiment and sealed it up. After taping it to the package, she asked if she could draw on the envelope and I handed her a pen. When she was finished she explained she'd drawn a picture of what she does to bug her brother, and there she was -- worshipping.
Posted by Amanda at 2:18 AM
Bub turns seven in one week. His birthday falls at the most inopportune time for a party -- always within Thanksgiving break. After Thanksgiving, having a party is hard because everyone is rushing around taking care of Christmas (including me), and it becomes very difficult to find a weekend where there's not a one-day sale or an office party going on. I don't know why we didn't think of it before, but this year we moved his birthday party up to today -- a week before his birthday -- and Bub had the best time ever.
Some day, many years from now, I aspire to be as creative as my most Martha-like friend Randi, but when there are essays to write and annotated bibliographies to be done, I will pay someone else to wrangle hoardes of boys and have projectiles thrown at her head, which is why we opted for the Space Party at the Rec Center.
We had a Pirate Party at the Rec Center a couple of years ago, and it was worth every cent. The kids dressed in fantastic costumes and went on an actual scavenger hunt for buried treasure. For the Space Party, though, a couple of stars hung on the wall and the kids picked up rocks in the gym. ("Moon rocks," supposedly, though I have my doubts.) The costumes this time -- or "moon suits," as they were called -- were made of trashbags and duct tape. While I've heard anything can be done with duct tape, this was a stretch. I think the kids looked a lot like hobos and less like astronauts, but that's just me.
Though I was disappointed in the limited decor, and though I question the costumes, what matters is there was plenty of space to run and play, along with games and crafts coordinated by someone else, and no set-up or clean-up for me. Bub had an afternoon with some fun boys and girls, there was cake to be had, friends gave him such thoughtful gifts, and at the end of it all, he feels so, so special. It was a happy birthday party, indeed.
Posted by Amanda at 1:28 AM
Friday, November 16, 2007
I mentioned the flea market in my painting post, and realized I forgot to mention our outing last weekend. My mom took my kids Friday through Sunday, so on Saturday, James and I went to the Fort Worth Flea Market for the first time. It was surprisingly good! The environment was eclectic, there were so many great deals, and I would have driven myself into ruin if I drove a bigger car. Even more importantly, there was not one sock dealer in the whole entire place!
I bought lots of pretty little things, and I think the weekend after Thanksgiving I may go back to see if a chair and table I loved remain. (Again, there was a space issue in my car, but I now have a standing invitation to use a friend's truck.) James looked at baseball cards and bought movies. We both had a great day.
Crazy Deals from a Crazy Man
One Big Happy Boy
Look Ma, No Kids!
Posted by Amanda at 11:23 PM
The painting is complete! I cannot believe it. I think I mentioned that I hate painting, but let me reiterate that point: I hate painting! My mom also hates it, but she loves me, so she came over and helped me. She actually came over to help me with something altogether different, but when she came into my house and tripped over a can of primer, she knew I'd bit off more than I could chew.
We got started last night about 7:00 P.M. I had already primed one large room, so we finished priming the remaining two walls that were originally accent walls in my family room and dining. Then we painted the first coat of Refined Gold in my living room, dining room, hall, family room and kitchen. We worked until 3:00 A.M.
This morning around 9:00, we finished our coffee and got started again. We put a second coat in the first five rooms, then painted two accent walls and the downstairs powder room in a chocolate brown. We went back over and touched up missed spots as walls dried. We worked on painting until after 5:00 P.M. and began replacing outlet covers and furniture. I then treated my mom to dinner (cheap labor!) and we went shopping for fabric for the curtains I will make on Tuesday. Curtain rods go up tomorrow, along with the things that belong on the mantle.
Familiar couch? My friend Kim is remodeling, so I just bought her family room couch for my empty living room. Also, I found the iron thing on the wall for $6 at CCA on Wednesday, and the wreath and greenery at the flea market for $3. Less than $10 to fill a big empty wall. Speaking of bargains, all the paint for my entire downstairs cost $10. I bought two 5 gallon Oops paint buckets at Sherwin Williams. The manager told me he had just mixed the paint that morning for a customer who changed their mind. The colors were just what I had in mind, so I couldn't have been more pleased until he told me the original price: $500. That paint sells for $50 a gallon, and I got it for $1 a gallon. What a deal!! And, there's plenty left to use for other things or to share with a friend.
Before (Right) and After (Left on Primer)
Painted Living Room
Posted by Amanda at 10:39 PM
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I was in Lewisville today running some errands when I happened upon this Amish family. For some peculiar reason, I am totally infatuated with the Amish. I remember every once in a while when I was young and we were traveling, I would see horse-drawn carriages with the orange reflector triangle on the back. That sight was so curious to behold, particularly as we raced by in our car.
I personally encountered an Amish couple during a college summer in Tribune, Kansas. I spent two summers in Tribune with my Aunt Ruby, Uncle Jim, and cousins Emily and Sarah, and one year, I worked in the hospital where I was able to assist in the delivery room of this beautiful young Amish woman. She and her husband were the sweetest, most peaceful couple I had ever met, and their apparent love for one another impacted me deeply. A few months later, I heard that the young husband had been killed in a farming accident, and I always wondered what happened to the wife and their new baby.
A few years back, we were at James' family's house, which is filled with books. James' grandmother reads novels back-to-back. I forgot to bring reading materials with me, so I picked a book off her shelf. It was the middle book of a Beverly Lewis series all about the Amish. I couldn't get enough. I read that book over the weekend. I read its sequel while laying in the backseat on the seven hour drive home. Since then, I've read all the other Lewis books written, along with a few other writer's Amish offerings. I even once aspired to cook like the Amish and invested in a lovely cookbook, but thus far I have had absolutely no success. (I was born without a Betty Crocker bone.)
Anyway, this Amish obsession is the real deal. Even a couple of weeks ago while having coffee with our friends Corey and Amy, we were talking about vacations. Hawaii was mentioned, Orlando I think, the Mountains of Colorado, and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Amish Country). Any guess which locale was mine? Any guess which locale was the absolute least popular? (Amy did say she'd go with me, but I think I promised some baked goods and a stay in a B&B.)
So, today when I passed by that Amish family, I had to think of something to say. You cannot be in the Metroplex and see an Amish family and just walk on by. At least, I can't. Maybe it's just me. My mind raced as I thought of what I could possibly say to them. I wondered if I was even allowed to talk to them. I nearly let them get away until I called out to them and came up with the most brilliant thing I could think of.
"So, are you from around here?"
WHAT?! That's the best I could do? They're AMISH -- of course they're not from around here!
Fortunately, they seemed as interested in me as I was in them, so they were glad to share quite a bit with this Englisher. Daniel runs a sawmill. Sylvia stays home with her eight children. I discovered they were in Dallas to take the husband's mother to the doctor in Flower Mound. They rode from New York to Dallas on an AmTrak train, and then hired a Mennonite family to drive them to Lewisville where they now stayed. Since they couldn't drive themselves around, a shuttle would take them from the hotel to their appointment and back.
The husband, Daniel, asked me how far they were from Dallas, and how from Flower Mound. I said they were very close to Flower Mound, and about nineteen miles to Dallas. "That far?," he asked, "It looked alot closer on my map." I confirmed the distance and wondered why they hadn't Googled it before I remembered they were Amish. Good grief!
After a few moments of small talk about where they live and where I live, we said our goodbyes and went seperate ways, but I couldn't get them out of my mind. I didn't tell them my name. I didn't ask them their names. I came face to face with a people group of major interest to me, and I left knowing really nothing more than their itenerary. The kids and I walked around the store we had come to in the first place, but I couldn't shake the thought of them at all. We finished our shopping, left the store, and as we drove across the parking lot, I saw them in Wendy's.
Long story slightly shorter, I stopped the car, went in to Wendy's, introduced myself and my children, and learned more about them. I couldn't be more excited! We visited for probably fifteen minutes, and then exchanged addresses. I now have Amish penpals!! I'm looking so forward to learning more about them, their family, their community, just everything. Stalking the Amish pays off.
Posted by Amanda at 8:42 PM
It's so easy for life to become settled, only to be disrupted once again. Despite my ever-changing circumstances, I choose to worship a holy and unchanging God. I will bless the Lord at all times, no matter how hard it gets.
May His sweet presence be a healing balm to my wounded soul.
Song Lyrics: Made me Glad (Hillsong)
I will bless the Lord forever
I will trust Him at all times
He has delivered me from all fear
He has set my feet upon a rock
And I will not be moved and I’ll say of the Lord
You are my shield, my strength,
My portion, deliverer,
My shelter, strong tower,
My very present help in time of need
Whom have I in heaven but You
There’s none I desire besides You
And You have made me glad, I’ll say of the Lord
You are my shield, my strength,
My portion, deliverer,
My shelter, strong tower,
My very present help
You are my shield, my strength,
My portion, deliverer,
My shelter, strong tower,
My very present help in time of need
Posted by Amanda at 11:14 AM
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Last week was "bad-baby week," as they have become so lovingly referred to around here. These are the weeks that I am bombarded with all things baby. Magazines and coupons arrive from my old registry. Friends become pregnant. Other friends have baby showers. That stack of maternity clothes tucked away on the top shelf in the laundry room falls on me while I'm already battling my archnemesis. I felt like I was on a train roaring towards terrible destruction.
But, I made it, and I didn't crash. And I went to a baby shower and didn't make an absolute fool of myself.
There's hope for me yet.
"You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves.
We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord,
and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.
For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,”
has made this light shine in our hearts
so we could know the glory of God
that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
"We now have this light shining in our hearts,
but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars
containing this great treasure.
This makes it clear that our great power is from God,
not from ourselves.
"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.
We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.
We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.
We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus
so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies."
II Corinthians 4:5-10 NLT
Posted by Amanda at 12:39 PM
James and I were at the movies this weekend where there's a lovely poster for The Golden Compass. As I was walking towards it, he told me definately not to take the kids to go see it, that he'd heard some really bad things about it. But we'd seen the previews. It looked like a lovely Chronicles of Narnia type movie. Full of fantasy and beautiful cinematography -- what could be so bad?
I meant to ask others what they'd heard, but forgot. Then today, Faithful Chick wrote about The Golden Compass, mentioned a warning e-mail going around (that I've not seen), and linked to Snopes. Check it out for yourself, but we will be staying away. (My kids are too young for added confusion.)
Update: Even more about The Golden Compass. I feel like I've had my head in the sand.
Posted by Amanda at 12:14 PM
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I've never been one to stumble gracefully. I've never been one of those women who can get a little tripped up, catch it, and make my faux pas look like I have a little dance in my step. Always and forever, I have had the opposite of grace. When I stumble, it's a big production.
One day, while in a store paking lot, I had one of those very non-graceful stumbles. Gracie was toddler-sized and I had just taken her out of her car seat and hoisted her onto my hip. As we headed into the store, James looked back and forth on the parking lot road to ensure it was clear, and we began to cross between cars and onto a sidewalk. James crossed ahead of me, and I began to stumble right behind him. I still to this day do not know what happened. There was nothing on the ground to cause me to stumble -- not a hole, not a rock, not an animal -- nothing. One moment, I had my balance, the next moment, I more than did not.
I knew I was going down with this one, so I began calling him to catch Gracie. The storefront was covered with windows and there were lots of people inside. As I cried out, "James, James, James," all the people in the store looked out. Great. I stumbled a little this way, I swayed back a little that way, I tripped some here and there. James followed along with me, arms outstretched, trying to catch our daughter.
Though I was falling, I continued to move forward. I will likely never say this again, but that day I was fortunate to have a parked El Dorado break my fall (though it ricocheted me another parked something or other that was equally big and painful). That bouncing beween cars gave me just enough control to do some crazy piroutte and swing Baby Grace off my hip and into the air just before I began sliding across the asphalt and slamming into the sidewalk edge. (Clarification: I didn't throw her, I was just holding her away from my body, which was going down.) Once I came to a full and complete stop on my skin-covered runway, James took the baby and sat on the ground with me as I cried.
Now for the really stupid part: I had just publicly stumbled across a big parking lot. It was loud, it was messy, and everyone saw me do it. I was lying on the ground in a pained heap with holes in my pants and shoes filled with blood. I also thought I might have broken my kneecap. Crazy me -- instead of going to the hospital, or at the very least, going home, I picked myself up and went shopping. With holey pants and bloody shoes, limping and crying, I went shopping, refusing to acknowledge that anything had just happened.
Don't get me wrong, I love shopping as much or more than the rest, but this blood-covered shopping excursion was crazy. At that moment, moving on, or pretending I was able to, was more important than getting well.
"Your words have been arrogant against Me," says the LORD. "Yet you say, 'What have we spoken against You?'"
"You have said, 'It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the LORD of hosts? So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.'"
Both privately and publicly, I have both asked this question and made these complaints. I have both wondered aloud and inside what good it is to serve God when people who don't want them or people who will hurt them are able to have babies right and left. I have questioned God about showing up for His beloved. "After all I've done, after all I do, after all I blah, blah, blah..." Oh my.
I have just publicly stumbled across a spiritual parking lot. Once again, without grace. Procreation is absolutely not the reason I serve God. My inability, therefore, should not be the reason for which I call Him into question. Publicly, I have sinned, and publicly now, I repent, both to God, and to you.
I think actively working through the grief, along with asking "What now?" to move forward, is ok. I think the "Why them, and why not me?" probably is not. God's love is neverending, and his faithfulness is unchallenged, but I wonder if somewhere I have indicated that it falters. It doesn't. In my heart, I know that full well, but in my words I may not reflect that, and for that, I couldn't be more sorry.
You learn alot about someone when you fight -- you learn of their character, their nature, and their numchuck skills. Right now, God and I are fighting. Or rather, wrestling, which is perfectly fine. Jacob wrestled with God, and God blessed him. (He also gave him a limp, but that's a story for another day.) I love God, God loves me, neither one of us are going anywhere, but we have some stuff to work out.
Already our battle has revealed things in my own nature and character that are no good and need transformation. God is scouring out the deep, dark parts of my inmost being. I hope in this continued fighting that I am challenged, I am strengthened, and I am utterly changed. And if there comes a time where I am once again stumbling about, I hope I can finally do it with grace.
"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak...
Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."
But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
The man asked him, "What is your name?"
"Jacob," he answered.
Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,
because you have struggled with God and with men
and have overcome."
Genesis 32:24, 26-28
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool."
"For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ
but also the privilege of suffering for Him.
We are in this struggle together.
You have seen my struggle in the past,
and you know that I am still in the midst of it."
Posted by Amanda at 10:56 PM
Friday, November 9, 2007
I was talking to Amy the other day about holiday plans and the fact that we're going to host just under 20 people for the pre-Thanksgiving meal. I was super busy in school this week, and have another busy week coming, but mentioned to her that the week of Thanksgiving is somewhat slow, which will be wonderful pre-company.
Amy: Oh great, maybe you can get some rest.
Me: I was thinking I would use that time to repaint the interior of my house before company arrives.
Amy: Of course you were.
Am I so predictable, people?! Do I overcommit so obviously? I think so.
No, seriously, I need to repaint. This past summer I spent two careful days repainting a shelf for my scrapbooking room. After two days of diverting the attention of tiny little fingers, I thought the drying was done. When I touched the shelf to ensure it was completely ready, it tipped over, knocked a hole in my wall, and fell utterly apart. The neatly painted pieces went promptly to the trash, and I've looked at a hole in the wall for months.
I'm normally on top of home repairs -- my bridal registry included tools, and I would vacation in the Home Depot if only they had a timeshare -- but this one was tricky. James thought we could put a plant in front of the hole, but it was very close to the door. He also suggested hanging a picture over it, but it was very near to the ground. He then decided to drop the matter and let me manage the "hole" thing (giggle at stupid, but somewhat humorous, pun).
I knew the *right* way to repair the hole, but felt compelled to go with the *easy* way. Eventually, easy won, but then there was the issue of paint. I had not been extraordinarily happy with our interior color. I mean, it was fine, but in my opinion, it was a little too orange. I'd already purchased a color with which to repaint, but I needed a reason to break out the brushes. A big obvious patch on the wall and double-digit dinner guests was all the motivation I needed. Today, the painting project began.
Halfway through the very first room,
I remembered I hate painting more than I hate laundry.
No turning back now...
Posted by Amanda at 11:40 PM
Today marked a special occasion in Gracie's life: her very first school field trip. She was so jealous last year when Bub boarded the bus with his class for a trip to the Pumpkin Patch (though we'd been there ourselves many, many times). Now it was her turn, and absolutely everyone knew about it. I was a chaperone for the trip, which made it that much more fun for the little Mama's girl. The field trip consisted of an educational concert at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth, followed by a picnic lunch at Trinity Park. It was a fun day, indeed!
As for my chaperoning responsibilities, they were far easier than I anticipated. I worked as a substitute teacher while in college, and while I have the utmost respect for school teachers, subbing made it so clear that teaching is not for me. Actually, what became clear through that job is the fact that I am not equipped to handle children en masse, regardless of the venue. I'm afraid of children in large hordes -- they will sense my fear, and they will take me out. (I don't mind babies en masse, which is why in the past I've been a 0-9 month nursery volunteer, but that's only because I can outrun a newborn.) To be a chaperone for today's events, I imagined keeping up with many little kids, but fortunately, I had only my own and one other little charge. Not hard at all.
The most fun, though, was being able to torture Gracie's sweet little teacher. This teacher is the absolute best, and I really enjoy her a great deal. I think that feeling is mutual, because she called me this morning at 7:00 to see if her mom could ride with me to the show. "Well, of course," I sweetly replied, though my devious intentions were immediately caught. Sweet teacher promply said that her mother, Mrs. D, was resticted from revealing any information at all about her, no matter how juicy it may be.
The best part, though, is the fact that I'm kind of sneaky, and Mrs. D is kind of talkative in that super-fun, sweet Texas Mama way. We just had the best time spending the day together. I'd get her talking in a round-about way, and when she'd realize she was talking about "her Laura," she'd "bubble up," meaning hush. All day long when I'd see Sweet Teacher, she'd looked so worried. To ease her fears, I sent an e-mail at the end of the day letting her know that I, in fact, did not get any juicy details about her, though I now know all there is to know about her brother, her Daddy, all ten of her nieces and nephews, and various residents of Greenwood, Texas.
Bus Ride with Buddies
Riley-Grace's First Concert Tee
Steven Fite: Kindergarten Cool
Picnicking Pals: Gracie and Josh
Back to School
Posted by Amanda at 10:52 PM
Thursday, November 8, 2007
This woman and I were in the same due date club on Mothering.com during my most recent pregnancy and loss. She wrote a very insightful list of things that suck about miscarriage.
And hey, listen. I'm not too upbeat right now. If that troubles you, you may want to take a blog-stalking break. You're welcome to watch the train wreck that may be, but if disconsolation disturbs you, look away.
Check back soon.
The sun always rises again.
Posted by Amanda at 9:07 PM
Her blog post further solidifies the point I made in the first place:
Our individual perspectives are skewed
as we look through the smudged glasses of our own experience.
As I mentioned yesterday, while I would love to be fully and completely overjoyed for all of my pregnant friends with no other hidden emotion, I cannot be. (Not yet, at least.) My experience of multiple losses thus far prevents that total freedom. While I'm sure my sister would like to be sympathetic to my continuing pain of loss and the struggle to grow my family, the outcome of that decision for her family and the daily struggle of raising an autistic child prevents her from being completely sympathetic to me.
I do have children who irritate me from time to time. My son has ADHD, and while life with him has been a hard and often frustrating road, I get those good moments, those moments of connection, those cuddles, that love. My daughter can be generally irritating in a way that any growing girl can be, but all in all, she is a joy to my soul and the light of my life.
Nothing I've gone through with my children has been more than slightly worse than average, mostly everything has been similar to the average struggle of parenting children who are healthy and whole. Because of my perspective, because of my experience that children are God's blessing and His reward, and because so far raising kids has been the best thing I've ever done in my life, I've wanted to have more children and have pursued that end through hardship and four losses. It is that positive perspective that even sent me under the knife to have my uterus, along with the way I would ever be able to bear children, permenantly modified in an effort to prevent more deaths and to dramatically lower my risk of premature delivery in any possible future pregnancies.
But my sister looks at life and childbearing through different glasses. The context of her comment is far different from mine. She has a daughter who, though extraordinary in my opinion, is probably similar to any other random teenager terrorizing her parents and preparing to leave home. When her daughter was small, my sister desired to grow their family, and as a result, she and I have similar journeys of loss (which is why the insensitivity of her comment shocked me to the core). Beyond that, though, my sister's day-to-day life is quite different from mine. Following the death of her own 22-week preemie, she and her husband pressed on and life with autism is the result.
In the way that my kids love and connect with me, my sister received love and connection from her daughter, but not her son (at least, not in a way we without autistic children would understand). She is constantly challenged and every part of their life is affected in ways I cannot begin to conceive. You can look back through her blog and see. Her struggle with autism is the result of that trying one more time, and though she loves her little one, the decisions she made to get to where she's at seem to burden her and haunt her still. I'm confident it's that amped-up struggle, frustration, and irritation that forms the foundation for her expertise to tell me to suck it up and move on.
But back to my perspective (it is my blog, after all): Yes, kids can be irritating, and yes, that irritation comes in such varying degrees that from one end of the spectrum you cannot even imagine the other. But in spite of our private pains and hardships, our perspective shouldn't be all there is. There is more to life than a general sense of egocentricity.
Every pregnancy could end in loss. In fact, only one in four pregnancies make it. Four out of my five pregnancies have ended in loss, so statistically, I have tipped the scale. Even though because my experience in pregnancy and loss could make me an "expert," who am I to say, "Oh no, don't get pregnant. You could be like me." I would never, ever tell anyone to suck it up and move on beyond their desire to pursue parenthood because of what could happen. "Expert" opinion is only that, an opinion. It is neither fact, nor the Truth.
Basing a life or a decision on what could be is a fearful and empty way to live. Could my desire for another child, or for a healthy child, never be fulfilled? Absolutely. Despite the body modifications, am I still at risk for a child born prematurely or one who will die? Sure. But on the same token, I could have a child who is born healthy with no complications who fills our life with joy and wonder, and that child could just become sick all of a sudden and die. I could have many years with a son I bear, and my healthy boy exploring like healthy boys do could get run over by a train and be killed.
My point now, as it was yesterday, is that I struggle because I want to feel one way, and cannot yet, merely because of my experiences. Those experiences and my response to them is what I long more than anything to have changed, so that in them, I find myself not to be defensive, but rather, humbled. I do not need my experiences to make me right, but rather, merciful. And just as I do already, may I moreso share grace and comfort with those who hurt like me, instead of criticism and expertise.
"Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him."
"...Look at every proud man and bring him low,
look at every proud man and humble him..."
"Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man
who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same."
"God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy."
"There will be no mercy for those
who have not shown mercy to others.
But if you have been merciful,
God will be merciful when he judges you."
"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.
When they are troubled,
we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."
II Corinthians 1:3-4
Posted by Amanda at 1:54 PM
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
I am trying to stay away from Blogger this week, but today I feel extra pensive and thought I should post. I've been struggling once again, and having this outlet affords me the opportunity to gather my thoughts in a concise enough way to pray. Again, this is much like my journal, so here goes:
Yesterday, I spoke to a very dear friend of mine following her much anticipated level-two sonogram. My friend is nearly midway through her pregnancy, and just found out she's having a girl. After two very boisterous, rambunctious boys, a little pink on the horizon is just what she needs. This is a successful pregnancy for my friend after three losses at 6 weeks gestation.
When Zachary died, my friend spent a lot of time here at my house talking with me about loss. Zachary was my third loss, and though his circumstances were quite different than a first-trimester loss, I had two of those at the time to compare (now, three). She was in the midst of a struggle because three losses wrenches a heart in a way that cannot be explained, but she was torn because she wanted to press on. Despite the losses, despite her age, despite many obstacles in her way, she wanted -- needed -- to press on. For some reason, she needed my assurance that she wasn't nuts. She wasn't.
We had been advised to wait three months to pursue another pregnancy after Zachary died. At the time, I thought, "Three months, that's all?!" It was so incredulous to me that after only three months, the body, the mind, the heart, and the spirit could be returned to such a place that it could be stretched again. I was still in the midst of having to remind myself to breathe, to not die. In that moment, I knew we would wait three months times three months at a minimum, and likely more. As we waited, my friend waited. She wasn't waiting to try to conceive with me, but rather she waited for God to resolve one very prominent obstacle, which He did. As I healed, I prayed for her.
In July, after three months, something changed in me. There was something about that time frame that made it insanely necessary for us to try again, so we did, and we succeeded. I was completely freaked out, but so excited to be pregnant again after little effort. What a blessing to have another chance. I shared my new pregnancy with a few very close companions, but not this particular friend. She should have known, I should have told her, but I knew she was waiting, and I didn't want the waiting to be any harder.
When we found out, the appointments began, supplements started, and orders were made. I was in and out of this office or that, and by appointment standards, I was many weeks along (that is to say that the appointments I undergo in a few brief weeks are more than is required in an entire "normal" pregnancy).
At 6 1/2 weeks, I was leaving by OB's office yet again, and my friend called utterly thrilled. She was pregnant! They were on vacation and she'd just taken a test. "What should I do?" she asked. I made sure she had told her husband (hopefully before me), and she had. Then I suggested she next call her OB for a progesterone supplement in hopes that it would resolve the recurrent loss. I still didn't tell her that I was pregnant, though I was at the pharmacy right then increasing my own progesterone prescription. At that moment, my lack of disclosure was in an effort for the excitement to remain all hers.
My friend called her doctor for the supplement, her doctor complied, and after follow-up blood work and weeks of fatigue, she made it through the first trimester with no threat of loss at all. She moved forward, but one week after her good news, I lost again. I was 7 1/2 weeks, two weeks further along than my friend. What I had suggested to her failed me. Afterwards, I told my friend of what we had shared.
Now she's at 17 weeks, and just found out about that girl. While I am beyond-the-moon thrilled for her, it is so hard not to compare or to remember what is missing around here. My life is full of anniversaries I don't care to celebrate. Despite my wanting or not wanting to participate in those dates, they cannot be avoided. Even last night as I was tucking her in, Gracie needed to know exactly how long until her birthday. From now, these are the days we mark, but she only heard the ones not parenthesized:
(2005: Positive for pregnancy #2, First Loss at 6 weeks)
(2006: Positive for pregnancy #4, Zachary)
2007: Zachary's Birthday, 22w1d
2007: Zachary's Dying Day, 3rd loss
Gracie's Birthday (Pregnancy #1, 36w1d)
2002: Adoption Day -- Bub
(2007: Positive for pregnancy #5)
(2006: Positive for pregnancy #3, Ainsley)
(2007: 4th loss at 7 1/2 weeks)
2001: Bub joined our family
(2006: 2nd loss at appx. 9 weeks, Ainsley)
I don't know why I wind up here again and again. I just want to be happy for my friend, but it is so difficult not to be angry or jealous. (Not at her, but just in general.) In my heart, I just want to celebrate and rejoice with her, but I completely cannot. I don't know what I need to do to move forward, and I don't necessarily need suggestions or sympathy. It's just so difficult not to look through the glasses of experience, no matter how smudged they may be. It's hard to look through these glasses to something bigger and better and beyond all this, and in that, or in the lack of that, I find little but frustration.
I know I'm not alone. Consider Amy -- she's had a living child after losses, and yet the pain remains. Consider the woman I wrote about in October, the one with the regret: she has grown children and grandchildren now, and her sense of loss is as intense as ever. Consider our pastor's wife: she has healthy children, a successful ministry, a wealth of good things, and yet when she saw Zachary and held his dead body, she couldn't help but weep for her Rose and recall the gap where she belongs.
It is clear that this will never be over, that I will never be "over it," but when does this pain become productive? When do I not crumble in Wal-Mart when I pass by baby-scented sections? When do I not weep at the deli while having lunch with my family when someone comes in sling-toting a baby in the pattern I picked out? When do I not feel like vomiting when a diaper-shaped invitation arrives? When does the immediacy of reaction go away? When does this negative knee-jerk response disappear? It's that time I'm waiting for.
"For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want."
"Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief."
"Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Relent, O LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days."
"So with you: Now is your time of grief,
but I will see you again and you will rejoice,
and no one will take away your joy."
"Weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning."
Posted by Amanda at 12:47 PM
Saturday, November 3, 2007
I followed Randi's advice and submitted my name on some of the Fall Y'all giveaway offerings through the Rocks in my Dryer carnival. Stupidly, I thought I could submit my name to all 665 participants, or to save time, at least my top 500. Three days and only 30 entries later, I remembered I actually have a life and an assignment in British Literature to complete, so my contest entries ended.
(I wish I had seen the one for Mom Spit, but I missed it. Guess I'll just have to keep on using my own.)
I had no plans to win anything anyhow. I don't win things. I got a "Good Reader" ribbon once in elementary school, and I won the jackpot in Vegas on an antique horse-racing game that truly must have been broken. Other than that, nothing. Ever. So, with my lifelong absence of luck, and my limited contest entries, I had no plans for success. I am proud to say that I was wrong.
The number generator at random.org smiled on me today, and I won three lovely handmade burp cloths from Rachel at Mom of 3...or more!!! Now, at the present time, they are of no use to me personally, but since I have friends who have just had babies or who will be very soon, I intend to share my bounty. The bottom line is, I WON, and that's prize enough for me!
Take a look:
Posted by Amanda at 9:56 PM
Thursday, November 1, 2007
After-school chores are a rarity around here. The kids really don't care too much for work or money, and I don't care too much for whining, so chores (thus far) have not been imposed. Every once in a while, however, I will call on the children to complete a task that I just do not want to do, but want to have done. Today, that task was organizing the Halloween candy.
No, we couldn't just eat it from a community bowl. Instead, it had to be sorted, categorized, and stored. In retrospect, I can see the need for that bit of organization might be a little nuts, but that wasn't as bad as it could have gotten. I did not succumb to the temptation to break out the labelmaker!
(with subcategories for Tootsie Rolls and Bubble Gum)
Update: I just saw today (Saturday) that Jenny's Caleb did the same thing with his Halloween loot. All I have to say to that is, "Uh-oh." :)
Posted by Amanda at 10:35 PM
James is traveling this week, so Bub and I are having a "Boy's Night" with me as the fill-in for the male counterpart. It's another early night for Gracie (she conked out before 6:00, which is understandable after being sick and then drug through the neighborhood on a candy quest). We called in some pizza for an indoor picnic, and spent the evening watching Transformers. Now, I am not a sci-fi or robot movie person, but this movie was actually very cool.
We had a fun movie night, and I particularly loved all the little comments coming from my little man, like, "Oh, yea," "Cool mom," and "Now, that's what I'm talking about" (a comment whose origin is completely unknown).
Matthew borrowed a Transformers book from the library last weekend. Every time a new one came on the screen, he would look it up in his book to learn more about it. I love it that he loves research.
and Movie Watching
Posted by Amanda at 7:02 PM