Friday, March 30, 2012

I will want these moments back.

At the risk of someone thinking all I do is dwell on the loss of my daughter, Teagan, I am writing this post. It has been on my heart and mind for several days now. I may have written about similar thoughts and feelings already, but if I have it was several years ago and well, these feelings have just been rushing over me so much that I need to just write them down and this is the place I go to do that sort of thing.

The reason I even preface and start this post the way I have is that I feel like more than ever my blog is sort of a personal challenge to me right now. What started out as me sharing stories and pictures and updates and just snapshots of our life for my family and friends to keep up on turned into something very different over the years I have been blogging. I went through a long stretch where it was easy for me to post and write and my "stories" were fresh and new all the time. Then there was my time in scrapbooking and all that played a big part in my blog too. I was meeting new people and was on a "creative personal high" and just very involved with a lot of online events.

Then I had two more babies. On top of my already busy life. And they were and truly are special little guys. But they are boys. And they are demanding. And messy. And a lot to try to keep up with- in addition to 3 other sisters, a brother and a dad who has a busy life all his own. Life just went from being a mix of reflections and lessons learned from my past and some creative stuff thrown in there with the busy-ness of having kids and feeling like life just started piling up. I felt like I had nothing new or fun or interesting or important or even just "ordinary enough" for me to post. I struggled with some of the comments that were said at times too... even one that implied I use my blog and death of Teagan for some sort of celebrity status. Granted, that was a long way back, but still I get comments at times that make me wonder why I should be so vulnerable and transparent and open. It {my blogging} certainly IS for me. But I share in large part and in no way to gain 'celebrity'. Whatever that means anyway. I would be a nobody for the rest of my life if it meant I could have my life back the way I wanted it again.

So I have gone over and over in my head and have had many blogposts in my heart and head to share the past few months. But I have struggled with never knowing who is going to read it...and how my words will hit you. Lately though I have been affirmed more than ever to share my stories and to "write for me and my family" and the record that a blog and pictures can be down the road. I have felt overwhelmingly challenged to 'not care' what anyone will think when I do write or when I share from my heart. If it comes from my heart than that's just me being me. However, the truth is I will ALWAYS care about who is reading and how you take my words to heart. A part of me was just made to care about people. My heart cares because I love and serve and believe in a God who cares. More than I ever could. So while I am not easily offended, I care a whole lot about you and what brings you to this place from time to time. I pray for you and if there is ever anything that I write that somehow touches you or moves you to live differently, love differently or just want to know more, well then I feel like no matter what I write or why, it makes it worthwhile. And that has nothing to do with me...but everything to do with God.

Now that I have written all that down I feel like I should hit "publish post" right now. But I haven't even written down the thoughts I first intended to share.

This is what I planned to write when I first sat down at my keyboard. Titled, "I will want these moments back."

I have had a mix of really good and really not-so-hot days the past few months. Let me be honest with you. Moving and resettling is HARD! As much as we love the house we are renting at this time- it's not "home". As many new friends as we have been making and feeling so encouraged and supported by- we still miss our "old friends". As much as we feel like this was the very thing {moving to MN} for our family to do in life right now- we have had to adjust and learn and start a lot of things over. And all that just adds to the craziness of our usual lives.

Much of all the moving and trying to settle in, coupled with the recent birthday we had without Teagan here to celebrate, all played a role in the thoughts swirling in my head at different times recently.

Chip and I have shared conversations in the past about what we would do, or how much we would be willing to pay, or what would it be like to get Teagan back for just one day? What about for one hour? I think we agreed that there would be no price we wouldn't pay. It is that very thought- that I would be willing to do or pay just about anything for one day back in time with her again that this post spills from. It was the tears that kept pouring from my eyes as I wept and found myself almost unable to breathe when I sat down to fold a basket of laundry one day after her loss was starting to sink in and become my 'new reality'. As I fell to my knees weeping and aching in a place I had never felt before, therein was the clarity of what had happened. Our little Teagan was gone. All I wanted at that moment was to fold her days of the week underwear one more time. But they weren't among the whites to be folded now.

All I wanted was what I had just had. All I wanted I had just lived through and sometimes had even grumbled about; all I wanted was what I had all too often wished was different in my life.

I had it now.

A quiet, clean house.

And my heart had never hurt more than it did at that time.

* * *

I took Brock out for breakfast not long ago. He was on Spring Break and our family doesn't go anywhere for such a break for lots of reasons, but that's another post. =) So this little coffee outing was a simple treat for him. And for me. I think it turned out to be more for me. Because as I turned the key in my van and looked over at his smiling face as we headed out on our short little morning together it was as though I was living a moment in my past. Our past.

I literally felt as though I was a 'future me' and he was a 'future him', and instead of me being older and more wrinkled and an older version of me and him being an older, more handsome version of him, we were both 'us' now.

I don't know if as I type that out it even translates through the screen or implies the meaning I am trying to convey. But it was so real to me. It was a sacred gift at that time. There was no loud 'boom' or shining light. The earth didn't shake, but it was unmistakable to me and since then I have had more moments like that one. Our whole breakfast together that morning felt like it was on another "plane". Brock loved his campfire s'mores latte, but didn't really care for the texture of his berry oatmeal that day. We came home to a house full of activity and a husband/dad who had to run out the door to go to work and I had diapers to change and lots of motherly chores to do for many more hours. But I was so thankful for the gift of what was sort of a "flashback in time"- even though it was happening in the here and now.

It happened at the end of a long day for me earlier this week. It was one of those days where there were too many of us who started out our day waking up on the wrong side of the bed and we just couldn't seem to turn the momentum back around no matter how hard we tried. By 8pm that night I had yelled far too many times, not hugged enough times, told my inner self that I was worthless for even caring or trying, and I spent too much time feeling sorry for myself. As I flopped down into the glider chair to rock Teague to sleep I looked down at him and kissed him and as the warmth of his cheek touched mine I realized that even this day I would want back. Someday.

You don't have to suffer great loss or tragedy or death to learn this life lesson. Each of us experiences life and it fades and is gone. One moment at a time. The present becomes a distant memory as quickly as we live it. None of us can get back a single moment in time. So my challenge to me {and to you if you choose to take it upon yourself} is to soak in some of the moments that you live in the 'now' as if they are gifts to you from the future.

I'll put it another way.

No matter what you are going through in life, there are parts of it that you will wish you could have back sometime. Whether it is a job or friends or your health; whether it is youth on your side or young kids underfoot or piles of laundry that never seem to end; whether it is the ability to be intimate with your mate or go for morning coffee with your teen or paint a picture or ride a bike. Someday one or two or all of the things you love about your life right now might not be an option. Or might simply have grown and changed or even moved away.

So to recognize that it might be the very thing you are dreading or seems to be wearing you out right now {newborn baby or long hours at your job or that professor that talks on about nothing for the whole class! or any other thing} that you will someday look back on and realize it was a really great thing to just "be" in that place and time.

I vacuumed around a bunch of rainbow-colored toys on the floor yesterday. Instead of sighing that I had to clean and that I had toys to pick up {again!} I sighed because they were my reality. I sighed, thankful that even though my life has challenges and imperfections and things I wish I could change or do over I am grateful that I "get it". Right now.

I am overwhelmed that life taught me this lesson the hard way. But I am grateful to be able to share what my heart has learned in any way I can. Which is one reason why I blog. I may not have anything too important to share nor can I compete with the creativity and inspiration all over the web these days by people prettier and more capable and more educated and more lots of other things. But I am still passionate. I am sure of many things. Today I just wanted to share with anyone that hasn't learned it yet, one day you will want this day back. Embrace it as tight as you can...or let it go if it is holding you back. That's my nitty.gritty. heart for everyone today.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It is well with my soul.

Today marks what would be Teagan's 15th birthday if she were still here with us. It's a strange and wonderful thing to have this type of day in my life. One that, even now celebrating 11 birthdays without her, doesn't really come any easier and can't fully be put into words what my heart feels.
I do feel so honored and privileged and humbled and grateful and blessed that God chose me to be her mom- knowing full well that the number of her days would be less than 4 and a half years. Knowing full well that I had hardened my heart toward having any kids at all- yet He chose to send Teagan into my life and change me forever. She was my gift. My gift of being released from a life that was becoming more and more selfish and looking for fulfillment in things of this world- rather than finding it in the one true source in God. She was my gift of coming to understand that joy was in not in obtaining things, but in giving and receiving love. Teagan made me want to be better in all areas of my life. She made me slow down, reprioritize, simplify, notice the details, celebrate the ordinary, rejoice in the little things and she taught me that you can dance even when there's no music playing at all.
She loved life. It sounds cliche, I know, but in her short number of years she soaked so much in, gave so much to others and really lived her life to the fullest. She filled my heart and life in a way I never dreamed a child could do. Even as demanding as she was and the fact that she had more energy than I could keep up with sometimes, I know she was placed in my life to help refine parts of me that needed refining and to open my eyes to ways of seeing that I would have been closed to had it not been for her.
I spent my entire pregnancy with Teagan dreading the changes this baby would require of me once she arrived. Chip and I didn't know if we were having a baby boy or a baby girl. When we had the chance to find out I was still so upset to even be pregnant that I didn't care to find out. That's how hard my heart was toward having a baby.{I, of course, regret the way I felt back then. Especially so when she was literally in my life one moment, and gone the next.} But in His higher ways, and because God knows what is better for us than we know ourselves- out of His incredible mercy to not let me waste my life on things with little or no eternal meaning, God reached out to me and literally placed Teagan in my lap on the morning of March 18th, 1997.
"It's a girl!" my doctor said with a beaming grin on his face. It was as though she was the first baby girl he had helped bring into this world. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me because she was my baby girl. My first, my perfect, my tiny, the most beautiful creature I had ever seen...and she was mine. A big tear rolled down my cheek and my eyes blurred as I tried to grasp the reality that this tiny, perfect baby girl was mine. Forever. The love I felt as she was handed to me all swaddled and wet was something I can still feel, as clear as the moment it washed over me.
On this day, year after year after year, no matter that she's gone, I still feel it in my heart. It's like a piece of pure joy. Only now, my arms don't hug her. Her laughter doesn't ring in my ears. Her smile doesn't light up a room. Her tiny pinky doesn't wrap around mine the way we used to promise to love each other forever. Her birthday comes...and goes without her. But not without a certain peace that I know God continues to pour out into my heart even though she's gone. I miss her. I wish she were here. I cannot begin to comprehend the splendor that surrounds her in Heaven everyday. I ache from knowing I will never hug or see her on earth again. Yet I am filled with a deep comfort and peace for I know that our hearts are in the very same place.
That is a gift of grace that I thank God for whenever the sadness threatens to consume me. I rejoice knowing that I will see her again one day because God's promises are true. I wish her story- my story- our story had a different ending for her than the mere 4 birthdays we had with her. But I can tell you in all honesty and sincerity that I truly believe and accept the short time I had with her was a gift to change me. In more ways than I think I can ever fully know. Today I mark another birthday without Teagan. Sure there is sorrow; sure there is an emptiness that I can't express, but more importantly I have come to see how she was, is still, and always will be mine. It is well with my soul. And oh what peace floods my soul as I think back on who she was, who God is and what awaits us all in Heaven. Someday!
Happy Birthday in Heaven, to a special little girl. I can't imagine her at 15, and I am just as happy to think of her as 4. Forever.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Another birthday!

I didn't mean to go nearly a month without posting, but here it is almost a full month later and I am just getting to my blog. I can tell you that we have had a busy month. I think I have gone out more times in the past month than I did in the previous two years- in part because we have great babysitters nearby {Thanks, Dad and Mom!} and also we are just trying to jump right in to life here in Minnesota and that means making new friends, trying new things and finding ways to get involved with various activities in the community. Chip's job is keeping him very busy and I think he likes it that way best. We have also gotten well-acquainted with people at a local church and it feels great to be making friends with others who share your same beliefs and seek to live out similar ideals in life. The weather has been better than usual for this time of year and that has made it fun for us to get outside, play at our nearby park and learn our way around the neighborhood a bit. We are still anxious to get our house in Michigan sold- although there have been very few prospects up til this point. It simply becomes one big issue for us to turn over to God and let Him work out the timing and details for us. It's easier said than done, but I don't think waiting and learning patience is the worst thing to have to experience in life. So we wait and hope and keep an eye out for a home that will suit the needs of our family when the time does come!

To top off our busy schedules, we celebrated another birthday yesterday... Ava turned 8! She is so excited about growing up and I think she wished she had turned 13 instead of Brock. But she will get there before we know it and so I am trying to tell her to enjoy being 8. To start her year off right I woke Brock, Bella and Ava up early and we went out for breakfast at Perkins yesterday before school started. Each Wednesday our local schools have a one-hour late start {as part of an ongoing teacher-education program, I believe} so we had that extra hour we missed from Daylight Savings time this weekend to use at breakfast. =) Ava was so happy that she jumped out of bed and announced it would be her best birthday ever!

We kept it mellow and of course had to round out the day with homemade buttercream cake and cupcakes- Ava chose mint-colored frosting with pink (strawberry) cake inside. On Saturday we will have another small party with some family here at our house. And then on Sunday we will mark another birthday. This time it will be in memory of Teagen~ who would have been turning 15 if she were still here on earth with us.

It's so amazing year after year how the emotions well inside me- there is a heaviness that brings an unexplainable feeling. Even though I know it's coming each year it just sort of "hits me"- from headaches to a bad attitude for "no reason" to a little bit of anger at the unfairness and reality that we are missing out on so much of her life. I find comfort in the fact that we have been able to make so many wonderful memories year after year- even though it's not always an easy choice to make. It is easier to wallow and feel sorry and bitter and just shut out the happiness of the world when one's heart is filled with sorrow. I am grateful that God sent Ava into our hearts and lives at this particular time of the year. She wasn't due until mid-April. But I think God knew that we would need a very special reason to party in the days leading up to missing Teagan on her birthday.

Celebrating Ava and making new, fun memories with all our children has been a gift I wouldn't have reached out for if offered to me in the darkest days of my grief. It makes me all the more thankful that God knew best and chose for us they way He did.

Ava has been a beautiful little girl, who has a zest for life and seeks happiness and fun and joy as often as she can. She loves to party and be loud and dance and have fun. Even at totally inappropriate times- like when it's already past bedtime. =) I think I can speak for myself and our whole family that she indeed brings excitement and adds happiness to our lives in ways that only she can. I am delighted to be her mom and to have been the one to hold her first and kiss her first and to be the one to still get to bring smiles to her face through mint-colored cupcakes and lots of other ways too.

We love you, Ava and are so happy that God sent you to our family at the perfect time. We hope you have many more years of parties and fun and joy this side of Heaven! Before you know it, you will be a teenager and I am sure your zest for life will keep us on our toes then too!