Hands

Hands

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Big Neon, Flashing Sign

I recently started a second job.  My first job as a nanny has become drastically part-time since the new school year has begun, and to be honest, I was really looking forward to being lazy and only working that very short period of time each day.  I imagined doing P90X every morning to finally get rid of this last 15 pounds that has stuck around for the past 7 months, having a clean house every day, working on Hope Mommies outreach, getting all of the grocery shopping done for the week and cooking a healthy meal each night.  I was going to use this time for what I wanted to do.  But, since I typically like to have a Plan B, I filled out a couple of job applications here and there, and even went to an interview once.

As the summer progressed, I let these opportunities slip away.

You see, I felt like God was telling me to hold off.  We had just wrapped up the summer bible study on discerning God's voice, and I was really, really into being quiet in my morning time with Him and instead of praying about all of my troubles, I was simply just sitting quietly, listening for Him.  I felt Him say He had something big for me to do and I didn't need to fill up my days with a second job.  I didn't hear His voice, I felt His voice.

Now some might say (myself included), "oh, it was just wishful thinking because you really, really wanted to be lazy and not get a second job."  Well, maybe that was part of it, the human side of me.  Maybe it was, but I really don't think so.  Not this time.  I know that the devil loves to sabotage wherever he can, and he often uses shame and guilt to achieve his destruction.  And because of this, I would regain control of my thoughts and tell myself, No, I felt His voice.  Then I would say, God if you really want me to have a second job, bless it or block it.  Literally have it fall into my lap with a big neon, flashing sign.

And it did…

After a phone call that pretty much broke my heart in a couple of different ways, I realized that the plan I thought God was setting before me did not look like the way I had pictured it.  And this is not anything new.  The plan I had for Jaxon was not the plan God had for him.  I literally hung up the phone, realizing crap I'll need another job.  Not even 5 minutes had passed before I saw it- the big neon, flashing sign.

Immediately, I checked my email to calm down a bit, and a new message caught my eye.  The email read something like "Hey Michelle, we were wondering if you were still interested in working here with us?!?  If you are, email or call me back and we will get started on some paperwork!"

What I had pictured for my "free time" was not God's picture.
And He sure revealed that to me.
Once again.  




Sunday, September 7, 2014

30 Boxes and the Sacred Dance

On the evening of July 22, 2014, our summer bible study came to a breathtakingly beautiful and emotional close.  I ended up in tears as I witnessed a room full of 200-something women gather together in prayer to love on and encourage future hope moms enduring the loss of their beloved baby.

If you read earlier, on June 3rd, our bible study women committed to raising money over the summer in order to provide hope boxes for bereaved mothers in our community.  Several weeks ago, our total came in and we raised over $1,500!!!  That's enough to provide 30 boxes!! 

So that last night of summer bible study, each woman was able to write an encouraging note, pray over a hope box, or write out some scripture that would eventually wrap a future bereaved mother in Hope.  

Thankfully, I was able to capture this picture...


I found it beautiful the way the light glares off of this hope box in the foreground as these two women have their hands on the box, their heads bowed in prayer.  It's as if we can see that God himself was right there.  In the background you can see more women praying over the other boxes, and some women sitting in their chairs quietly praying in their seats and writing out scripture cards and encouragement cards.  I am so honored and happy and thankful and inspired and humbled and blessed to be a part of this bible study!

Later that evening, a woman came up to me and told me that her step-daughter lost her full term baby girl unexpectedly almost a year prior.  She told me how she talks about her daughter all the time and she would really like to get her a hope box.  As I began to tell her absolutely, she said, "well she's here tonight!"  

We were able to give her step-daughter a hope box that night, and I was able to chat with her a little bit about her baby girl.  By the way… she just happened to be visiting that week from Mexico.  Let that sink in for a moment… 

I was in tears by the end of the night.  Wow, God.  Just wow.  

Her step-mother later messaged me that night and told me how thrilled her step-daughter was to have gotten a box that night.  She burst into her bedroom that night gushing about how much she loved the bible that was in her box and how it was her favorite part.  

I loved hearing that!!  Selfishly, I love to hear of how my son, my Jaxon, is impacting others.  

This all started because my Jaxon died.  

My desire to be an instrumental part of this ministry is because my Jaxon died.  

These women are being reached with the hope of Christ.  Because we have the common ground of our resurrected babies in heaven.

Now let that sink in for a minute…

Suffering is not fun.  I hasn't gotten easier.  

This. is. not. easy. because. I. am. a. Christian.

There are times when out of nowhere, the reality of my dead baby sinks in all over again.    

I find myself always walking this thin wire.  Sometimes I fall to the one side and the depth of the sorrow and grief that comes along with this whole suffering thing consumes me.  I can't help but play that night in my head all over again.  I gave birth to a lifeless body.  I never really got to meet my sweet Jaxon.  I simply held his lifeless body in my arms.  He never saw my face.  I was robbed on a completely different level.

This is a life I would never have chosen, of course.  It hurts.  No one wants to suffer.  And yet we all do.  Things are just not the way they are supposed to be.  This world has gone wrong.  

And then the reality of heaven sinks in all over again.  My anchor, my hope, my real home is yet to come.  One day, things will be the way they were supposed to be.  Until then, I will continue to walk this thin wire.  Angie Smith describes it well when she calls it "the sacred dance of grief and joy." 
  



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Eternal Sunshine

This is me today.

Another day.  One day closer to meeting my savior face to face.  One day closer to spending eternity with my handsome little man.  My sunshine.  And one day closer to meeting the One who created him.

Sometimes I feel guilty for getting more excited to see Jaxon on that day than I am to see God Himself.  I mean, don't get me wrong… to meet the creator of all of this beauty.  Wow, that is beyond my wildest dreams.  So wild, it is hard to imagine.  Impossible to imagine.  Imagine accurately anyway.

You know that song "You Are My Sunshine?"  Yea, I sang that to Jaxon just about every day while he was growing in my belly.  And I used to wear this shirt all the time.  And obviously I still do.  It says "eternal sunshine."




 Here we are on August 20, 2013.  Please forgive the cheesy bathroom "selfie" and dorky face, ha!  I'm pretty sure I was thinking, "Huh!!  Kinda looks like a basketball down there!  Maybe Jaxon will be a basketball star instead of a baseball star?!?"  ;)

I long for that innocent joy.  Ignorant joy, rather.  I ache to have Jaxon in my belly again.

God I simply do not understand.  

But your ways are higher than mine.  

Thank you for giving me a son.  Thank you for giving me 38 1/2 weeks of ignorant joy with him.  And thank you for the gifts.  Gifts that Jaxon's life on earth is still pouring out on me, and my prayer is they keep pouring out over me and and John-Michael and our future children for the rest of our lives.  

The gift of awareness of grief.  
The gift of compassion.  
The gift of becoming a better parent, a better wife, a better person.  
The gift of becoming closer to You.

In all things, I give You thanks.  I give You all the glory.  You have and will continue to make good from this.

You are enough for me.    

Who knew that this shirt would come to symbolize so much of my sweet Jaxon… My eternal sunshine! 




Friday, August 1, 2014

small victories

I recently told Jaxon's story to someone I didn't know very well, but had the feeling that I would be seeing her a few more times.  She lives in the same neighborhood that I work in, and her daughter was hitting it off with the little girl I nanny for, so I figured we would see them for play dates throughout the summer. 

We had been talking about her recent move here, and about the things to do around here that are kid friendly.  We were chatting a little about her daughters and what they like to do, and then came the question, "Do you have any children?"

Luckily (I guess luckily?) I have not had many people ask me this question.  The families in this neighborhood have seen me around quite a bit for the past 7 years and I think most of them know what happened by "hearing it through the grapevine." 

There was one couple that was so sweet (our kids swam a lot together last summer- while I was pregnant).  When the mom saw me for the first time after I came back to work, she pretty much ran up to me and gave me this huge hug with tears in her eyes and told me how sorry she was.  Then when I saw the dad a couple days later at church, he told me how sorry he was.  I think for most people it is so scary to do this because there is this pressure to say the right thing, to make sense of it.  Y'all there is no right thing to say, take that pressure off of yourself.  Nothing you say will make a bereaved parent feel better.  Nothing you say will make it ok.  Simply show them love, give them a hug, say how sorry you are and leave it at that.  Trust me, it means the world to someone that is hurting so bad. 

I've been asked a couple of times if I have children since Jaxon died, and each time I've had a hard time with it.  This is normal, and I'm hoping it will get easier as the time passes.  I want to talk about Jaxon.  I don't want to make people feel uncomfortable for asking though.  This is the hard part for me, because I cry and then I feel awkward and I know it just gets uncomfortable for people. 

But, getting back to the lady I was talking with at the beginning of this post, it was a small victory for me talking to her about Jaxon, because even though, yes, I got choked up, I was able to really talk about him.  Not just about the loss, but about Jaxon.  What he looked like, how he was so long and thin like JM.  And I showed her a picture of him.  She told me that she had experienced a miscarriage, and she said how sorry she was.  This is why I want to share about Jaxon.  We aren't alone.

1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage.  1 in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth.  That is A LOT.  I know there are so many women out there who feel alone and they don't have to feel that way. 

Let's talk about it, let's share our struggles and share our victories!  When we share with women what we have overcome, it provides encouragement through the hard stuff.  We show each other that we aren't alone in the grief that makes us feel like an outsider and it gives us permission to feel the things we are feeling.  There are these tiny victories I feel that I've experienced, like all of the "firsts" after Jaxon.  Going to the grocery store for the first time, going to that first counseling session, getting out of bed sometimes, telling someone about your child that is in heaven now and risking the awkwardness and showing vulnerability, and even saying no to doing something you know will cause you pain- no matter how silly you think it will seem to someone who just doesn't get it.  I call these victories because they are so hard to do, and it feels good after doing them.  It is grieving well. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Jesus Calling

I feel like it's important to say that my days have not been all doom and gloom during this wave.  I am not crushed to the point of being balled up on the floor waiting for God to take me home to heaven so I can hold Jaxon.  Although, I might hope for that in a prayer or two.  But no worries, I am not taking that business upon myself.  :)

Now that bible study is over for the summer, I've been paying closer attention to my Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young.  If you haven't heard of this book, man I tell ya, you've gotta get it.  :)

Yesterday, July 30th, I was outside with some coffee, having some quiet time before the kids woke up and I read this...

"Worship me in the beauty of holiness.  I created beauty to declare the existence of My holy Being.  A magnificent rose, a hauntingly glorious sunset, oceanic splendor- all these things were meant to proclaim My Presence in the world.  Most people rush past these proclamations without giving them a second thought.  Some people use beauty, especially feminine loveliness, to sell their products.  How precious are My children who are awed by nature's beauty; this opens them up to My holy Presence.  Even before you knew Me personally, you responded to My creation with wonder.  This is a gift, and it carries responsibility with it.  Declare My glorious Being to the world.  The whole earth is full of My radiant beauty- My Glory!"

And so it began.  It started raining.  There is a pool in the backyard of the family that I work for, and the sound of the rain dripping into the pool was beautiful.  The rose bushes had so many tiny roses on them, I took a couple of them for myself and put them in some water so we could look at them all day.  God really does make beautiful things.  How beautiful is nature.  I think a vacation in the country is calling my name. 

God has lifted me out of every single valley I've ever come to.  Have you ever noticed this little detail in the 23rd Psalm.  It says, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." 

The valley of the shadow of death. 

If we believe in Jesus, that he died for our sins, and we follow him with all of our hearts, death is not the end.  Death is a shadow of something scary, but the scary thing is the unknown thing, the shadow.  "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."  As believers, we know what happens after our bodies die.  Our souls remain.  Death is really the beginning.  Goodbye cruel world, hello paradise!!

I don't know if I will make any sense to anyone who reads this.  But what my main point here is, God lifts me up even in the midst of grief, even in the midst of my self-pity (which I know gets out of hand sometimes).  I will always have this twinge of pain in my heart, this longing to hold my baby Jaxon.  Even Jesus cried when Lazarus died, he knows the sorrow that we feel when someone has passed.  It is human, we are human.  There is a time for mourning, and there is also a time for joy.  We have something to look forward to.  Knowing Jesus gives us hope.  Without Him, what is there to look forward to?  Where is the joy?  Where is the peace? 

My favorite verse, the verse God has shown me time after time after time (and happens to be the verse that inspired the devotion of November 13th in Jesus Calling- hello!!!) is this...

"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."  Romans 15:13

God thank you for your encouragement and being patient with me while I feel sorry for myself.  Forgive me for my bitterness, my jealous feelings, and my impatience with others.  Thank you for giving your one and only son so that I may see Jaxon again.  Thank you for conquering death and giving us eternal life with you.  Thank you for beautiful things, for peace, for flowers.  Thank you for beauty in the rain. 

The Waves

Everyone grieves differently, we all have had different experiences leading up to the point of our tragedies, and our personalities are involved as well.  For me at this point, grief comes and goes, mostly stays for a day or two and leaves.  But right now, at this point, it has stayed for a week, now going on two. 

I have been stuck on the "what could have been" again.  A couple of weekends ago, John-Michael and I went to our nephew's jiu jitsu tournament.  We missed Jaxon.  I could picture holding him as we cheered on his cousin.  I know JM looked forward to one day teaching his son how to compete in things like this. 

I took facebook off of my phone a couple of days ago because babies are everywhere.  Milestones are everywhere.  Jaxon would be crawling, laughing, waving, and possibly pulling up on things getting ready to start walking.  Pregnancies are everywhere!!  And pregnancies that are right in sync with Jaxon's pregnancy- so many people I know are due in November.  Reminders of what I almost had are everywhere.

July 4th?  We were pleasantly distracted by my cousins from Iowa that came to Dallas for a wedding.  We got to steal them away for a day and enjoy The Stockyards with them during the 4th.  We watched the famous Stockyard cattle drive, and I called it our Texas 4th of July parade.  I wanted so bad to be holding Jaxon, showing him all of the Longhorns.  We ate some BBQ and talked for a long time about the grief and continuing life after leaving behind something so precious.  They lost a baby too and I know they feel the same aching for "what could have been." 

It was the end of June when we found out we were having a boy- all of the 4th of July things were on the shelves at that time.  The very first thing I bought Jaxon, knowing he was a boy, was an American flag swimsuit.  All I can think about this summer is how Jaxon would look wearing that swimsuit. 

Last week, we ate dinner at Cheddar's and we were sat right next to this family with a baby boy about Jaxon's age.  This sweet daddy was feeding his boy water through a straw, just occupying him really, because they knew he was about to get hungry and demand his mother's attention.  The daddy was distracting the baby so the mom could eat her dinner first- totally NOT complaining by the way.  His dinner sat on the side, untouched, getting cold.  (Something parents love to complain about.)  I didn't think JM was paying attention to this, but all of a sudden he said, "I have never wanted a child more than I do now.  It's crazy how much this changes.  How the desire to have children is intensified now."  Yes, intensified, excruciatingly magnified. 

I don't like to hear parents complain about being a parent.  Imagine that child dying.  Which would you rather have?  I have no sympathy, complain to someone else please.

Moving to another apartment without Jaxon feels wrong.  Last night we emptied our apartment of all the last minute cleaning supplies, boxes, and trash.  We took one last look in Jaxon's room.  My first reaction was to take a picture.  But we decided that we wouldn't.  We really don't want to remember this.  I don't think God wants us to relive the painful moments over and over again, and that's all a picture would have served us with.  We are called to live each moment once, and look forward to what's next.  That's why I keep the painful things in "the vault."  That day, that sequence of events when Jaxon died, was meant for November 12th and November 13th of 2013.  Not today, not tomorrow, and not every Tuesday and Wednesday.  Sometimes it is really hard to remember that Jaxon was not created for this world.  God never intended for him to be in this world, to grow up here, to know us the way we long to know him.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dream

I had the most amazing dream.

A few day ago, I woke up from sleep, pretty much in tears of joy.  I have done a lot of thinking about Jaxon in heaven with my grandmother.  I wonder what their relationship looks like, if she was there to greet him when he came home.  She loves children.  I remember gathering around her with my cousins and listening to her tell stories of her as a little girl, walking home from school, being chased by a bobcat all the way home.  :)  She told that story with such animation- opening her eyes big and wide like the bobcat's eyes, switching to the fear on her face as she realized she was being stalked by that bobcat.  Needless to say, she got home safely because she grew up to have 10 kids and many grandchildren, I don't even know that number...

In my dream, I was back at her house.  She lived out in the country on top of a big rocky hill that overlooked the Red River.  Beautiful spot.  As you climb up her long, rocky driveway to the top of the hill, you see her house on the left and to the right was her garden.  She grew all types of veggies, but what I remember the most was her garlic and her purple hull peas. 

In my dream, I pull up her driveway, alone, I get out of my car and I see my grandmother in her garden.  She is sitting in her garden on a chair with a bowl of purple hull peas, splitting them and separating the peas from their pods.  I look at her, she looks at me, she drops her bowl of peas and runs over to me.  Picture that, an old lady, running to greet her granddaughter.  I must say, that she never ran to me like this while she was alive, she did love me no doubt and told me this often, but she was not fast by any means, and she didn't show her affection with hugging in this way.

I noticed something very new in my dream.  Her farm was long and it went down the other side of the hill she lived on.  On the other side of this hill was a beautiful river, flowing pretty fast, yet peaceful. 

Then when my grandmother got to me, she hugged me, and she whispered in my ear, sing Amazing Grace with me.  We held our embrace, and she began singing, I began to cry.  Then by the end of the song, I was singing along with her... the emotion running through my veins is pretty much indescribable.  The best way I can put it- pure joy to the point of tears. 

I wish I would have seen my Jaxon, but I know he is there too.  What I saw was my grandmother in heaven, happier than I have ever seen her before, praising our God who makes beautiful, amazing things.  And He gives us beyond what our imaginations can fathom- He gives us things on the inside.  Joy, appreciation.  On unimaginably new and higher levels.   

I know this was just a dream, and the real heaven is nothing I can really imagine or understand with my human pea brain, lol.  But it was neat to be able to dream about it and have this wave of excitement come over me as I think and wonder.