Running for Chocolate

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On Sunday I completed the Chicago Hot Chocolate 5K.
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There was a beautiful sunrise above Lake Michigan.
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And good friends.
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And there was chocolate.
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But most of all it was so special to reach a goal I had set, way back last October when I was in the midst of grief and sickness and still frustrated by my post-baby body — to run this race. I finally dared myself to actually sign up in September of this year, still not totally sure I’d be able to do it. But I was ready to step out and was so thankful for friends who were willing to do it with me!

I chose this race in particular because the proceeds go to the Ronald McDonald House Charity.  As many who have followed our story know, we spent the eight weeks of Naomi’s life living at the Advocate Children’s Hospital Ronald McDonald House in Oak Lawn. I still remember the first moment I walked into the House after being discharged from the Maternity floor barely 24 hours after giving birth to Naomi. Going from the business and urgency of the hospital to the calm oasis of the House felt like a refreshing waterfall of hope and strength just poured over me. We were closer to Naomi’s room at the House than I had been on the Maternity floor and knowing that we had a place to sleep, eat, shower, and be a family with our boys while still being able to be with Naomi at a moments notice was such a gift. Looking back on that time, the Ronald McDonald House, and the beautiful staff and volunteers who run it, made it possible for us to be a family during Naomi’s brief life. This is a priceless gift to me and I will be forever grateful for that place and the people in it.

To those of my family and friends who donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charity in memory of Naomi…thank you for your generosity! Your gift will help others who are needing the services of the RMH while their children are in the hospital.

The race was also a lot of fun! It was the biggest race I’ve ever run (and only my second one at that). I was also super happy with my time of 30 min 30 sec. When I signed up for the race in September I was running around an 11 minute mile so I was very happy with the improvement I was able to make. My training was pretty much solely interval training Fit Yummy Mummy style. (More on that soon!) Now I’m deciding what race to do next as I had so much fun with this one. If only it wasn’t getting so cold here in the Midwest! Time to invest in some winter running gear, I think.

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As I crossed the finish line on Sunday, I was just overwhelmed with such joy and love for my sweet daughter that I miss so much. I just can’t wait for that day when we will run together on the streets of heaven. Until that day I keep holding on to the hope Jesus has given.

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on a day i’m needing some courage

DSC05420_2There are some parts of my life right now that I am actually getting excited about again, where I see amazing things happening and I am getting to be part of how God is working in a larger way. Some of those things have come as a direct result of Naomi and the path I’ve gone down since she went to Heaven. I don’t for a minute believe that she had to die for these things to happen. I don’t think God works that way. But I do see that there is good coming out of something that was and will always be bad – because death was never in the plan originally. It wasn’t what we were meant for. We were made to live, to live abundantly. It really does amaze me when I can sit back and see these places where I see life coming out of the death of someone I love so very much and out of my deep grief. I am thankful for that.

But then there are these other parts of my life that feel so incredibly hard and insurmountable. These are things that were there before we knew Naomi was sick. For a large part of this past year I just ignored them because I couldn’t handle anything else and really I found I didn’t care so much about those things because I was hurting so badly. But recently I’ve been starting to face them, to wake up, so to speak, once again to these realities. Today, it all seemed so big that I just wanted to give up (and just maybe the screaming and fighting and needs of two little boys on top of these things was just pushing me a bit over the edge?)

One of the things that I have found in myself over this past year is, I guess, courage. Perhaps I could call it candor? I struggle incredibly with self-doubt and with wanting to please others. However, this past year I think that I have come to a place of seeing how futile the self-doubt truly is. I’ve begun to learn to trust more of how I hear the Lord speaking to me and who he has made me to be. And because I have faced what I never thought I could face, I’ve learned a courage that is not built on my own strength, but on a deep knowledge of my weakness and God’s all sufficient strength. So these things in life that feel really hard? I know I need courage to face them, but courage and patience, candor and wisdom to do it in God’s strength and as he leads.

This afternoon with these thoughts in my head (and after escaping to the park with those two energetic boys) I opened up my copy of Jesus Today by Sarah Young, asking God to speak some words of strength to my flailing heart. This book of devotionals are written as if Jesus is speaking directly to the reader. Sitting on a bench in the shade while sand flew through the air and a hole to China was being dug, this is what I read:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged, for I will be with you wherever you go. You can choose to be strong and courageous even when you are feeling very weak. However, the weaker you feel, the more effort it takes to choose to be strong. It all depends on where you look. If you gaze at yourself and your problems, your courage will melt away. The choice to be bold rests on your confidence that I am with you and for you…When everything seems to be going wrong, refuse to get discouraged. Remember that I am a God of surprises: I am not limited by the way things are or by the paltry possibilities you can see. I am infinitely creative and powerful…I am good to those who wait for Me.

One of the verses that went along with this entry was Lamentations 3:25-26, one of my favorite passages of Scripture this past year:

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

I so needed to hear these words of truth today. Sometimes it is hard for me to hope for good things in the future, because often I have a very specific idea of what that looks like and yet I know that what I think would be good for me and my family may not actually be what is best. It is hard to hope and dream after one has had their dreams shattered because you wonder if those dreams were right and if they were then why didn’t God bring them to fruition? I don’t understand God’s ways. But I am seeking to trust him and follow him because even though I don’t understand him, I know, deep in my soul, that he is good, that he loves me and that somehow he will bring redemption and restoration to all that is lost.

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

On Pain ~ when you are trying to not feel it

**I wrote most of this post several weeks ago. But I still wanted to post it because I want to document what this whole experience has been like for me.**

Its amazing to me how hard I work to avoid pain. Have a headache? Pop a motrin. Got a sore throat? Take a throat drop. Fall on the ice while going to the car to fetch a toy for your child (ahem)? Please don’t ask me to move for the rest of the day because my leg hurts, badly. Cut your finger while prepping dinner? Go to bed! (I wish!)

I spent a good portion of the day one day a week or so ago sitting on the floor with a crying child (who shall remain nameless), explaining consequences for actions, discussing good and bad choices and mostly just being with him in his pain. At one point he said to me, “I will do ANYTHING good and have ANYTHING else taken away but please don’t take away ….[that thing I really really wanted to do]…”.

My son was trying to find a way to avoid the emotional pain caused by the consequences of his actions. He pleaded with me over and over not to make that thing his consequence. It was hard, so hard to stand firm because I hated seeing him in such emotional turmoil.

Lately I realize that I have been pleading with God, myself, my husband, to not let this be my reality – the reality where my daughter, who would be nearly ten months old but for the fact that she got really sick and she died. I found myself distraught this past month over the evidence that, no, I am not pregnant.

Just last week I was remarking on how things seemed to be more even emotionally for me. I felt better able to “manage” my grief. I could see healing happening and I felt like I was starting to move forward. At the same time I was struggling to feel connected to Naomi. I had such a short time with her, we didn’t really get to know her much at all. And while I was relieved that the raw, sharp, biting pain of early grief had subsided into a deep ever present ache, I also felt more distant from my daughter.

I have been discovering that when I employ various strategies to numb the emotional pain of loosing my daughter I also numb out the joys of knowing her as well. Now, some of the coping strategies are just that. I need to cope. I need to be able to keep living so I can’t live in the pain all the time. But when I avoid it for long periods I find myself not only escaping the pain but also in some ways unable to feel the joy and love that she brought to my life. And there is oh so much love and joy she brought to me. God has used my daughter in my life in ways I never could have imagined. But I am so grateful.

Life is precious and fragile and painful. I don’t want the pain, but through it, and sometimes in it, I see love and beauty that simply takes my breath away. So today I try to face the pain as best I can with the prayer for strength and grace in all the places I need it most.

Walking With You: Finding Hope and Healing With or Without a Rainbow

For the final WWY post in this segment, we will share our experiences with longing for another baby to fill our empty arms. Some experienced a subsequent pregnancy after loss. Some may be fearful of embarking on that journey again. Some may not be able to have another child, whether due to infertility or other reasons. Some may have found that having another baby, however precious a gift, was not the key to healing the grief. Can you experience hope and healing…even if there is no rainbow after the storm?

So, yes, I’m quite behind in getting this final post in the WWY blog series up. There have been several reasons including a really busy few weeks at work and a quick get away with my husband to celebrate our ninth (!!) wedding anniversary. But really, I just was not ready to write this post last week.

I still am not quite sure what I have to say on this topic. We do not know whether or not we will have another child. That is a question that we both wrestle with and while I, more so, long for a baby to hold, it is just too soon for us to make any sort of decision. Naomi was supposed to be our last child. And now that she is not here with us it is so not what we had pictured.

I will say that right after Naomi died my desire to have another baby was so strong. And I think a lot of that was tied to my idea of trying to recapture the pure joy I’d experienced with my previous two babies’ births. I felt at the time, in the initial raw stages of grief, that the only way to regain joy was to have another baby. But now I can say, with certainty, that joy and hope is possible again…and its found in God.

There are no easier answers but one of the things I’m coming to understand is that the sorrow I feel over Naomi’s absence with us right now will never go away. I’ve been thinking that healing, what I’ve been shooting for, meant a return, somehow, to how it was before, to how I was before. I think I’m starting to understand that sorrow, instead of being something to work toward being rid of, can actually deepen and widen joy, making even the ordinary every day become infused with a preciousness because this moment with these ones I’ve been given is a gift. And each of those moments I had with Naomi, they were gifts too, though well watered with many tears.

I was talking with my counselor recently about this very topic and happened to mention the term “rainbow baby”. Its such a popular term in the baby loss world, I guess, that it didn’t occur to me that she wouldn’t know it. So after explaining it to her that got me thinking about rainbows…they come after a storm. The rainbow in the Bible was a sign given to Noah of the covenant God made with him and with all living creatures following the flood, that never again would God destroy the earth with the flood waters — God’s promise to sustain life, not to destroy it, even when passing through the deepest, darkest storm. And I see God sustaining my life, even as I’ve passed through the valley of the shadow of death. Whether God chooses to give us another child one day or not, I see rainbows all around, made more beautiful by the tears that continue to fall and refract the light into millions of breathtaking colors.

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