The end of a year

The last two months of 2013 were a blur of activity book-ended by sickness and punctuated by tears. Sounds pretty awful, when I write it down, eh? But it was in fact all covered in grace. Still, I am weary and needing to regroup. It feels like I just sort of fell across the finish line of last year, limped into 2014 and am still trying to catch my breath.

I found this year that, as the calendar page turned to November, it grated hard on my soul. After the beautiful day of the Hot Chocolate 5K, I found myself sick with a bad chest cold that lingered too long. The weather turned cold, too. We celebrated a special seven-year-old and, thank God for whoever invented the Indoor Waterpark!

Through the end of November and into December, with the press of the holiday activities, I tried to close my eyes and not miss my baby girl so much – but I did. Then there was deep sorrow, that isn’t mine to share here, but made me weep for other mothers and fathers dear to my heart who now walk without their precious babes on this earth. So many tears. God must have a very big bottle to hold all the tears, I think.

Then came the time to remember, to celebrate God come to be with us, and to long for Jesus’ second coming. I found myself sick with fever and cough and aches so bad there was nothing to do but stay in bed. So my amazing husband made Christmas for us – cooking and cleaning and feeding us all – while I slept. All the way until New Years and a diagnosis of pneumonia. Oh, and in the midst of me being sick all three of them had the stomach bug – fun (um, not really). And a gerbil escaped…and was found while up in the middle of the night with a sick child – a silver lining? 🙂

And that grace? In-laws who welcomed us – sickness and all – for Christmas. My momma cleaning my kitchen. A sweet friend bringing soup and pie, a movie and yellow flowers on New Years Eve. Medicines and prayers and kind doctors.

Slowly I can breath again. Breathing slowly into this new year – resting and healing.

and laughter too…

I couldn’t resist also sharing these shots of a boy and his dad that I was able to capture last week at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. The pure joy and love that radiates from their faces makes me smile every time I look at them.

DSC05208 DSC05207 DSC05203 DSC05202 DSC05194 DSC05191And then these of me and my oldest boy, who is growing up so quickly. But even when you are a great big boy you can’t escape your momma’s lovin’.DSC05251 DSC05254 DSC05270 These boys, they make me laugh and cry, and yes sometimes (umm, often times) they bring me to my knees. But they and their daddy know how to make me laugh. Beauty and laughter…these are food for my soul, gifts straight from Heaven.

Her Birthday

Thursday we celebrated the miracle of her life, one year later.

Naomi Ruth Smith, born April 25, 2012…

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DSC03815 DSC03823We made a cake.

DSC03804 DSC03829 DSC03830And our home filled with beautiful flowers from friends and family near and far while our phones beeped with texts of love, reminding me that we are held in the hearts and prayers of so many.

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We released balloons up into the bright blue sky and her brothers blew out her candles.

DSC03869 DSC03889 DSC03893_2 DSC03856We made these fun little butterfly treats, because of course there should be party favors!

While it was not the first birthday I would have wanted for my daughter, with her in Heaven and us here, it was a day in which tears mixed with laughter and I am so grateful that I could laugh and smile. I am grateful for hope and I am grateful that I made it through the day! Thank you to everyone who called, texted, or sent us words of love, remembering the life of our precious daughter with us. We are so grateful for your standing with us on this journey.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

Springtime

I’ve found myself rather quiet these past weeks, staying busy in a good way, waiting for the grass to turn green and the trees to bud. I’m beginning to think about our vegetable boxes that are still many weeks away from showing up but I already am hungry for arugula and radishes. I try to ignore the cold that is lingering longer than usual this year, refusing to allow the hats and gloves to be put away just yet. But I did wear a dress on Easter Sunday. My boys were a little in awe at momma in a dress because its been months since they’ve seen me “dress up” like that. I’m not one much for dresses in the winter mostly because I want to be as warm as possible and I am not a huge fan of tights. In the summer, though, I love to wear skirts…soon, I hope, it will be warm again!

Even as we anticipate the blooming of spring and the summer ahead I feel the empty spaces where a little girl, who’d be turning one two weeks from today, would have been. Those empty spaces…I think a lot about how to fill them, because they will be filled. Pain and sometimes hot bitter tears seep into them. At other moments those spaces become the sacred places where, if I can only stand to stay in them, I hear words of Love and Truth whispered to my soul, that death is not the final word, that Jesus is alive, that the days I will have with my daughter will be greater than the days I am without her. Though these empty places feel such a heavy burden at times, a stark reality which seems to highlight this broken world, I continue to find this amazing Grace where somehow God is restoring my joy and bringing healing to my heart in these days.

And I have much to keep my hands full with these days, for which I am grateful, else I do think it would all be too much to bear. God has been good to us.

As you think of us, friend, in the coming weeks as we remember Naomi’s birth and celebrate her life, may I ask, if you are so moved, that you find some way to show love to someone who could use some in their life? If you would help another person in memory of our sweet daughter, it would be a blessing to this momma’s heart to know she is not forgotten. Naomi’s life was full of so much love. In her short life, Naomi taught me how important it is not to take a even one day for granted, that life is a gift and that love is the greatest gift of life, the gift given to us by God Himself.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.

GodIsLove

These Days of Winter

While it no longer looks like winter here (but they say we’ll wake up to snow in the morning), a few weeks ago we had a bunch of the white stuff. While I have in no way been complaining about the second unusually mild winter in a row this year, the males in my house were overjoyed to finally have some white stuff on the ground with which to play and are then quite saddened by the rain which has melted it all away.

Two Saturday’s ago we all had a blast sledding for a few hours in the cold sunshine.

DSC01926 DSC01934 DSC01944 DSC01995But since we haven’t had much opportunity for outdoor play in the snow, what with lots of rain and mild temperatures, we’ve had to find other ways to keep busy…

DSC01889 DSC01895like water colors. The boys and I had a blast making these. I saw the idea here.

And then we were on to messier endeavors…

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DSC01907 DSC01909Life with these two crazy ones is so precious. Loud, wild, exhausting…yes! But so so beautiful even in all the crazies. They are full of LIFE and I love them so. And that man who is far more adventurous with them than I even am? There are no words to say how much I love him.

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Thank you, God, for these precious ones you’ve given to me.