Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Daniel Richard & Lillian Judith Joy

Note: I have hesitated writing this story as I never will be able to accurately describe what I saw and experienced on June 10 - profound sorrow and profound grace.  Please excuse my pitiful attempt.  Just know I write this in honor of Bill and Tina.

This past Saturday, I looked through glass into an operating room and saw a newborn baby boy being cleaned up after a c-section with his proud daddy standing nearby.  I had been with his mom and dad for hours trying to bring him into this world.  C-section was the final outcome.  No…a healthy baby boy was the final outcome.  As he cried and as I watched his hands and feet fly through the air, the tears streamed uncontrollably down my face.  Tears of joy.  Tears of remembrance.

Thirty-nine days earlier, I entered another hospital room where a newborn baby girl had just been wrapped in a blanket and handed to her daddy.  Only, there were no baby cries.  When I unwrapped this precious baby hours later to take photographs of her feet and hands, she was still.  Lillian Judith Joy's soul was in heaven.

Tuesday, June 10 - 6:51 a.m.
I received a text from a friend who had been staying at Tina's house: "Mrs. R-- wanted me to let you know she's going in.  Baby's not moving.  She's crying and scared."

Tina was due the day before and I had spoken to her that Monday afternoon.  She said had not felt well during the weekend, but was feeling better.  She never mentioned she wasn't feeling the baby move.

I immediately called the house to see if that meant she was in labor.  Their 15-year old son answered the phone and he asked me where his mom had gone.  "Is she in labor?" he asked me.  I told him that's what I was trying to figure out.  I did not mention the fact the baby wasn't moving.  No need to worry him.

7:10 a.m.
Tina called me before she went up to triage to tell me she hadn't felt strong movement for a few days.  She had felt tightenings, but knew that at the end of pregnancy baby moves get slower and more squirmy as they run out of room.  But, she wasn't feeling the baby move at all.  Her husband was going to meet her at the hospital as he had already left for work.

During the next hour I prayed and texted back and forth with another friend.    Non-stress tests, ultrasounds…all of that takes time, so while we were concerned we were pretty confident all would be well.

8:10 a.m.
"Vicki, my baby's gone.  My baby's in heaven."  Tina began to cry.  I had no idea what to say and just cried.  She told me there was no heartbeat, that they would induce her so she could deliver.  Her husband wanted her to have a c-section so she wouldn't have to go through the agony of delivery, but the midwife knew that the recovery would be easier.  Decisions had to be made.  She asked if I would go to the house to be with the children as our friend needed to get to classes at the local college.  Of course, I would.  "Who should tell the children?" Tina asked.  She knew it should be their dad…in times of shock, things aren't always immediately apparent.  I prayed with my dear friend and I hear myself say in the course of that prayer, "God, this baby was created for You…"

Just imagine how many babies are created solely for God Himself.

Around 9:15 I got to the house.  The kids were smiling and happy.  We sat down and played a few games.  Every once in a while, they would mention the baby and "why don't they call?"  They were just waiting for that phone to ring so they could hear the good news of a new baby brother or sister.  I wondered when their dad would arrive to tell them.

10:30 a.m.
I was outside with the children.  I had made a couple of phone calls and was now conducting a race between the two older brothers when Bill walked out onto the back porch.  The kids were excited to see him.  "Come in…." His voice cracked.  The children followed their dad to the living room as they asked, "Did mom have the baby?!"  I stood in the hallway next to their oldest son, Josh, as a grieving father wept as he told his children that their baby was in heaven.  I watched Josh, a student of mine this past year, as his face turned very sober.  He looked at me and said, "I knew something had happened.  I just knew."  The oldest daughter, Autumn, the one who seemed to look forward to that phone call the most, left the house to find her best friend next door.  Josh soon followed.  Bill held their other daughter, Hannah, on his lap and told her, "I wanted a little girl so you could have a little sister."  He sobbed.  I hugged little ones.

A little later, Autumn came back with her friend.  They had made a card for Tina.  Two peonies had been picked…one for Tina and one for the baby.  Those would go back with Bill to the hospital.


My job was to get Tina's things together - the bag, the nightgowns, the chargers for the electronics, her brush….I wasn't going to need to send the carseat.  I enlisted the help of the girls for it seemed to help them to have something to do.

Josh just couldn't talk to anyone for a while.  Even when our beloved pastor came, he stayed in the neighbor's yard and played with their dog.  A while later, our pastor went to him and they talked. It helped.

After Bill and Pastor left to tell Tina's parents and to head back to the hospital where Tina was laboring, the children played games with their neighbors.  Josh helped get lunch together.  The girls made brownies.  I could see the evidence of the prayers of many in the smiles of the children.

2:50 p.m.
I got a call from one of my friends who was in the delivery room with Tina.  The baby would be coming soon.  The plan was for me to get up to the hospital as soon as possible after the baby was born to take photos so that the family would always have a keepsake of their precious little one.

3:10 p.m.
My friend who had left earlier for college classes returned to take care of the children.  I was filling her in on all of the happenings of the day and how the children were doing when my phone rang.  "It's a girl," said the voice on the other end.

A girl.  Just what Bill wanted.

I soon left the house and was on my way to the hospital.

I arrived at the hospital around 3:45.  The nurse had just handed Lillian Judith Joy to Bill…the father who wasn't sure he ever wanted to hold his baby knowing he would just have to give her up.  But, he held her.  He looked at her.  He loved her.  A few minutes later, Tina was holding her in her arms and she cried. She wailed.

Oh!  That wail!  It haunts me to this day.  The grief that tore through to my soul.  I turned and saw another sweet friend of mine sitting at the end of the room and quietly sobbing.  The tears streamed down her cheeks and her shoulder shook.  But the only noise was the wailing of a mother experiencing the deepest of grief.


Yet, at the same time, the grace and peace of God was in that room.  While Bill and Tina so wanted their baby with them, alive, they knew God loved them still.  They knew He was in control.  They rested in Him.  I don't know if I ever saw God so clearly as I did that day in that room.  I saw God as Tina wailed.  I saw God as Tina and Bill smiled and laughed at different times.  I saw God as friends and family poured into the room.  I saw God as I looked into the perfect and peaceful face of sweet Lillian.   Most of all, I saw God as I watched Josh go from not wanting to enter the room to standing at the end of his mother's bed, then stand next to her and reach over and touch his sister's forehead.  Then I saw God as I saw him hold his precious baby sister in his arms.


God is present in the hurt. 



Later that night, we unwrapped precious Lillian one more time so that I could take pictures of her little feet and hands.  Then, she needed to be swaddled again.  I took her from her mother's arms and laid her on the blankets on the hospital bed.  I had cried little that day and still would not cry much until the following days.  It was the memory of this moment that would break me later.  I knew even then it was God's grace that allowed me to gently wrap that baby girl as I had wrapped my babies so many times.  As I wrapped her, I talked to her.  She was precious.  I just held her after I had her swaddled.  I knew then, that I would never again be the same.  She changed my life.


This past Saturday night, I took a baby boy from his mother's arms, laid him on the blankets on a hospital bed.  I talked to him as I swaddled him.  He looked around with bright eyes.  I held him and he looked at me.  He was alert.  He was alive.  I rejoiced and I remembered.  In the birth of sweet Daniel Richard, I remembered my time with precious Lillian Judith Joy.

To view the slideshow shown at Lilly's memorial service, please click on the following link:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7XN2CJwoHL0WWphUWgwTlNlclE/edit?usp=sharing




Thursday, July 10, 2014

Before it Disappears

Watching little ones blow and chase bubbles on a sunny, summer day.  It has to be one of the Top 10 Most Precious Sights in the World.







We all say it because, deep down, we believe it.  But, sometimes something happens that makes us remember the truth:

Life goes by so very quickly.

In the last month, I have been face-to-face with that truth.  Today, it snuck up on me as I looked out the window and saw the bubbles and my youngest chasing the floating globes.  My youngest who just turned 7 one week ago.  By the time my oldest was seven, I was chasing 5 little ones.  But, those years came and went just as quickly as those bubbles my son was chasing.  

To look at my children play is like holding still the hands of time.  My kids play like their grandparents did in the 1950s…they ride bikes, catch frogs, swing on the swing set, and, they blow bubbles.  


(Ok, so I don't know if they actually blew bubbles in the '50s…)  

But, to stop and watch them, truly watch them, is also like holding those busy hands of Father Time.  Maybe not stopping them, but slowing them down, just a tad.  I don't do it often enough, but when I choose to leave the dinner half-made and walk out the door to watch my children play, I embed those images in my mind.    I remember when my 16, 15, 13 and 12 year old children blew and chased bubbles.  They don't now.  Soon, my youngest 3 will no longer find such joy in it.  I had to enjoy this moment…THIS moment…not knowing if there will be another like it.



At 7 years old, my son's biggest curiosity is trying to find the squirrel the dog chased up the tree.  He grabs a pair of binoculars and searches, points, and talks to his four-legged friend while I grab a camera to capture the moment so it is not forever lost, like the pesky squirrel.  

At 16, my son is trying desperately to hold on to the fun aspect of childhood while taking on the responsibility of a job and trying to catch a glimpse of what his future holds.  He's trying to make a plan, but the focus changes weekly.  I still want to direct, lead, keep him from falling and being hurt…but maybe it's time to let him fall, if need be.  It is I who am afraid of the fall for it is I who fears the hurt.  He has no fear.  Maybe that's how God meant it for a young man.  Maybe that's why He didn't create binoculars with which to see our future.



Precious lives are being brought into this world all around me.  Most of these tiny lives thrive, while one does not.  But, that's a story for another day.  The ones that do survive, do their mothers know how precious and fleeting the time is?  I knew the principle of that truth several years ago.  Today, I know the reality of it.


Today, I really look at each note, each flower, each bubble.  I try to savor each smile, each kiss, each hug, each "thank you," each misspelled word from my young ones.


Will I feel the same when my younger children are in their teen years?  When they are trying to fit in, testing their wings of independence, trying to spy-out their future?  Will I savor those moments?

Because, you know, I am not savoring them as my first teens are experiencing these moments.

THIS is the lesson I must learn NOW.  To savor these times with my oldest child before I try to hold on to them in my youngest.  The years are just as fleeting.  It's how I savor them that will make the moments sweeter and the regrets fewer.  I have rushed him through his life.  His years have floated away so very quickly.  Just as it is inevitable for that bubble to pop, his years with me will be gone and he will move on.

But sometimes, a bubble lasts longer than the rest.  We could just walk by it, be little interested, or  destroy it with one careless mis-step.   Or we can study it, be amazed by it's intricacies, and be grateful for each extra second we have to behold it.

Maybe, just maybe, I can gently capture these last months or years with my older ones and just cup them in my hands rather than allowing them to float by and disappear.  

Oh, they will surely disappear…but I must study, be amazed and be grateful in the moments before.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Glimmers of Light

All parents wonder, at times, if their children really GET it.  We teach our children things through our words and actions, we put standards and rules into place, but do they understand why?  Do they learn what we are trying to teach?

We were kids once.  We learned most of what our parents were trying to teach us.  We came to understand many of the rules they had for us.  Sure, some remain a mystery; such as, why MUST I eat my spinach????  But, for the most part, we ended up understanding.  In fact, much of what we teach our children and many of our rules for them are the same our parents had for us.  We pass them down because we have come to understand their importance.  Yet, our parents also wondered if we would ever GET it.

Recently, I have had glimpses of light that my children are getting it.  Things have been connecting with some of my children and it has renewed hope and given me joy.

Just a sliver of light:
I have recently begun discipleship lessons in the mornings with my children in order to help them to become stronger in what they believe and to teach them how to teach others the Bible.  My younger two children do a different set of lessons than my older five and a few weeks ago, we learned about obedience.  The lesson talked about the 10 commandments, one of which is honor thy father and thy mother.  We discussed the difference between obedience and honor.  This really was nothing new to them, but it was a good review of why it's important to obey and honor their parents.  About a week later, someone was preaching in church and we came across the passage in Matthew that quotes the fifth commandment, "Honor thy father and thy mother."  The preacher read it and continued reading the next verse.  But, just as it was read, Zane looked up from his Bible at me with his big eyes and smile in recognition.  He remembered the verse and what we had talked about.  It stuck.  He GOT it.

A stream of light:
Recently, I had been talking with Gloria about how Satan attacks.  I told her that it's not always with the "big" things like drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or stealing.  I said that he knows she realizes all of those things are wrong so he may try to attack her in a more subtle way.  I gave her the example of someone getting upset with me for something I did not do.  I could get bitter over the fact that I was unjustly accused of something or I could apologize for unintentionally hurting that person and forgive them for their accusations.  They, in turn, could forgive me or become bitter.  I told Gloria that bitterness and anger is one of Satan's subtle attacks and it destroys people and churches.  Sure enough, a few days later, our preacher was preaching about discouragement and how it is one of Satan's back-door ways of attacking people.  He mentioned how we Christians have strong walls built agains the "big" sins, but Satan will come in the back way that's unprotected and get us with discouragement.  Later, when Gloria was telling her dad about the message (he missed due to late-night farming), she mentioned how Satan will often attack us in a "sudden" way (that was her way of saying "subtle") rather than with something big.  She had remembered our conversation and it was reinforced by the preacher.  She GOT it.

Light at the end of the tunnel:
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were having a conversation with our 14 year old.  We were talking about the importance of schedules, bedtimes, not partying late (yes, Christians party…we call it "fellowshipping"), etc.  She said that sometimes she feels bad that she has to be the one who goes home early or can't attend an event at all, but she was grateful that she has parents who love and care for her enough to set rules.  She knows we are doing what is best.  She GETS it!!!!!!!

Each of these instances where I realized my children are getting it gave me such joy.  It's not going in one ear and out the other.  They don't look at my husband and I as mean ogres.  They are allowing the seeds of truth and godliness take root and it's growing.  The young ones are hiding the truths in their heart.  The teenagers are applying the truths…realizing why we do what we do.

I am thanking God for these glimmers of light and hope in the midst of our child raising years.  We have so many more to go, but He is good to give us little encouragements along the way.

And, you know what?  I just have to say, He has given us some great kids.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Still Strong in My Eyes

This past Friday evening, our church's youngest choir went to sing at a local Veteran's Home.  The choir is appropriately named "Churchbringers" as they, indeed, take church to those who may find it difficult to attend church outside their residence.

One of our pastors is currently the leader of this choir and the children love him.  He adores the children and is a people-person through and through.    He has a son in the military and so was more than willing to sit and listen to the various stories of some of our nations greatest heroes.  

For about 45 minutes, the children sang hymns, spiritual and patriotic songs.  Between songs, Pastor quoted various generals, presidents, and famous patriots in their defense of the Bible and God in our government.  It truly was powerful.  With every general and patriot's name, he had the undivided attention of the audience.  An audience consisting of men and women who served, in one way or another, under names such as MacArthur, Patton, Eisenhower, Kennedy, etc.

As the children sang "Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies" and The National Anthem, I looked around the room.  Tears came to my eyes as these once strong men and women who gave so very much for us sang with all of their hearts.  I pictured these men and women as they must have been in their late teens and early twenties & thirties.  How good looking.  How confident.  Their entire lives before them.  Oh, they must have trembled with fear on the fighting lines, but they were brave.  How many friends and comrades did they see wounded?  How many tears did they shed for the ones who gave their very lives?  

Now…now they sit in wheelchairs. Their bodies are frail.  One woman is blind.  Some of their minds are more absent than present.  Most cannot sit or stand straight as they once did when they proudly wore the uniform of the country they boldly defended. They are told when to get up, when to go to bed, given food they may or may not like - much like the military, but treated more like children than brave soldiers.  Some are forgotten by their families;  most forgotten by their country.  

But they.  They haven't forgotten.  Even the ones who seem to have vacant minds.  They remember years gone by when they stood proud for their flag.  They remembered their childhoods as they each sang "Jesus Loves Me" along with the little ones…the little ones who made them smile and brought a light to their eyes.  Did they remember their own now-grown children when they were that small?  Did they have an ache to go back….back when they had purpose?  Back when their children and others thought they were the greatest, the smartest, the strongest?

A group of feeble, wrinkled bodies.  They don't look like much.  They no longer are able to do much. 

But they are truly the Greatest Generation
I am grateful to them.
They are still strong and good looking in my eyes.


Pastor listens to the stories of heroes

The greatest generation

LIves just beginning

Introductions

This man saluted our children as they sang patriotic songs

This couple has sons currently serving our country

Meeting a real-life hero



Who's having the most fun?

Ice cream sandwiches afterwards!

The big kid :)


Friday, May 30, 2014

Red, White and Balloons - Letchworth State Park

As I mentioned in this post, most of our family spent Sunday afternoon at a nearby State Park for their annual balloon festival.  This was our first time and I really hope to be able to go again next year.

If you've ever been to Letchworth State Park, you know that it is referred to as the Grand Canyon of the East (as are several other gorges, etc. on this side of the country).  The history surrounding it is filled with stories of Indians, the famous story of Mary Jemison, the Council of the Six Nations, etc.  As we walk and view the gorgeous scenery of the park, it is easy to picture the Native Americans living there 200 years ago.

If you are from this area, you also know the gorge is deep…very, very deep.  The cliffs go straight down.  The barrier walls are so low they are basically pointless.  Sometimes the pointless walls are nonexistent.  You have heard the many stories of people who have died there.  Every. Single. Year.  These are the stories that make my mother-heart panic every time I get within 10 feet of the gorge.  I used to go to Letchworth all the time as a kid. I never panicked.  Once, just my husband and I went.  No panic attacks.  I go with my kids….and I flip out.  Seriously.  I have never experienced such uncontrollable fear as I do when I am at Letchworth.  I have learned to just walk away when I get like that….holding onto the hand of my youngest child, of course.

However, Sunday was different.  Well, once the balloons took off.  When my focus was on the balloons above, down the stream, and even below me…I wasn't concerned with the danger of the gorge.  Gone were my motherly concerns and my child-like spirit of wonder returned for a few minutes.  I oohed and ahhed with my kids and snapped many pictures.  I was in awe of these massive, floating works of art.

There is no way I could capture the wonder of it all, but I loved capturing the brilliant colors.

filling the balloon

a pile of colors

about ready to launch


"we have lift-off"


I love New York

peek-a-boo


loved seeing the TOP of this balloon as it floated below us

deep in the gorge






While I absolutely loved watching these, I doubt anyone could ever get me in a hot-air balloon.  If I lose control on solid ground at the edge of a cliff, can you imagine what I would be like in a tiny basket hundreds of feet in the air with nothing but a little flame to keep me afloat?!  

Makes me grateful that it is "On Christ the solid rock I stand…" My God is a rock, though my faith may sway like the basket.  Trusting in Him always in all things.  

May you have a blessed weekend trusting Him.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Aunt Thelma

I think we've all done it.  I have done it more times than I care to admit.  I get together with someone and "commit" to call, write, visit more often.  I will write or e-mail a few times, then...life "gets in the way" and, before I know it weeks, months and years pass without communication.

Sometimes, I get to re-connect and make the commitment again and do better.  Other times, I never get that second chance.  Sometimes, I find out that the next time I talk to that person will be in heaven.

My aunt died this morning.  She was my dad's "twin."  She was older than my dad, but her looks and personality matched his exactly.  She loved life.  She loved people.  She laughed.  She listened.  She made her home in Florida and California and I only saw her a handful of times in my life.  The last time was 7 years ago when a bunch of us met up in Daytona Beach to memorialize my father - her brother.  I will never forget walking into the restaurant the first night and seeing her.  It had been years since I had seen her last and I was shocked to see my father's face!  I am not sure I have ever seen a brother and sister look so much alike.  I got to know her during those few days and she told me much about my family I had never known.  She was a true treasure - a woman who loved life and loved God.  She was an example that I could have benefitted getting around more.

After that reunion, some letters were exchanged, but I selfishly focused on my own little world.  I didn't make the time to sit and write a letter or make a phone call.  Even after my cousin told me Aunt Thelma was ill, I never called.  I rationalized that I wouldn't have the right words.  Of course, that was ridiculous....with my aunt I didn't need the right words.  I just needed to tell her I hadn't forgotten about her.  But, I didn't do that.

As she was so much like her brother, I know she didn't have hard feelings.  I am not even sure she was hurt by my lack of communication.  Which makes me sadder because those who don't form expectations deserve so much.

When will I learn to stop just thinking about those I love and start communicating that love to them?  Hardly a day passed when I didn't think of my Aunt Thelma, but years have passed without me telling her that.  Now, I cannot tell her.

I'd like to think I will keep in better contact with my remaining family on my dad's side.  I have already looked into plane tickets for this summer.  I am praying a little thing like money won't hold me back from seeing their faces.  I do hope that I will write and drop a line...even via technology...more often.  I think of them all the time.  I am realizing more and more what a precious - and temporal - gift they all are.

Right now, I do smile at the thought of my aunt being reunited with her parents, her sister, and her brother.  They are smiling, laughing, talking all at once, and loving...even more than they did here on earth.  She is hugging my dad, like I wish I could.  I hope she is telling him all about our time in Florida when we were all together.  I hope she tells him that his kids loved him and miss him.  I hope she knows we loved her and miss her now.

I love you, Aunt Thelma.   To my Aunt Peggy, Uncle Richard and cousins....forgive my selfishness.  I love you, all, and please know I will try to do better in letting you know that more often.

Aunt Thelma is the smiling lady to the far right