Friday, July 29, 2016

Fighting The Funk and Claiming The Joy

Ok, friends. I am just going to lay it out for you. Plain and simple. Loud and clear. No sugar coating it.

July has been rough. 

And by rough I mean it is now almost comical. As in, what else could possible go wrong between now and August 1st? As in, the crazy train has parked at our house and I am almost to the point of surrender . . .  bring it on July, what else you got? 

Let me break it down for you . . .

Early July: Hot water heater leaked all over garage. Had to replace.

Early - Mid July: Brandon suffered from several rounds of kidney stones which landed him in the E.R. twice, and surgery center once. To be fair, the symptoms began back in June. One surgery and a zillion scripts later, he is now, as of July 29th, back up and running as normal.

Mid July: Our laundry room semi flooded which lead us to discover a major plumbing issue that will require, if we want complete assurance this will not happen again, digging under the house to re-do pipe work. Well, ok then. Good thing we got that money tree growing out back!

Late July: We discovered we have rats. I just can't even. Real, living and breathing rats running around having a hay-day in our attic. I know what you are thinking. They are in your attic! That's great! You haven't seen one inside! This is true, because we all know what happens when I see a lizard inside, so you can imagine what would go down if I saw a rat running behind the couch. But y'all, we have rats. And not just a cute little family of four. We have, as the pest company put it, lots of activity. As in, they have been back twice this week, are coming today and again on Monday, and then will continue to come back to set traps and remove dead rodents from my house. Earlier this week, the pest roper asked if I wanted to see what he caught so far. I'm sorry, would you like me to gag all over this garage floor? Apparently Mr. Pest Roper did not get the memo that I don't do lizards, much less rats.

Late July: My blow dryer broke. I know . . . This shouldn't even be a thing, because for the love it's a blow dryer, but it feels extra frustrating because kidney stones and nasty rodents and water leaking everywhere will do that to you.

Mid - Late July: Due to aforementioned crazy, Chance related grief came back full force. This completely took me by surprise. What was a bit shocking to me especially, is that the grief came in the form of irritability, anger, and bitterness, not so much sadness. This irritability then, naturally, spilled over into my family life and relationships. I suppose this just goes to show that grief will continue to ebb and flow, and that other life events really can trigger emotions related to loss.

I write all of this, not to complain, but to show that even someone who's life motto is to choose joy despite circumstance, can struggle to actually claim that joy when life goes bonkers. I don't do it perfectly all of the time. That is never the image I want to portray.

This month I experienced a funk that was and to some extent still is hard to shake. The blahs hit hard. I knew the truth, was aware of the truth, but I chose not to let that truth take root. I traded truth for a lie and called it good. And as a result? Everything suffered. Mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, I hit rock bottom and was operating from a dry well. There was fresh water available, but I was ignoring the invitation to drink.

Joy fades when our souls dry up, friends.

I'm committed to taking back lost time and shaking this funk, because I'm not fully out of the woods just yet. I am committed to running full force towards the Water Giver. To the only true source of joy and hope.

And just on the chance I'm not alone, in case there is anyone out there that needs a little de-funking, too, here is what has helped me over the past few days.

Meditation on God's Word
I picked a few key verses and played them on repeat in my mind. They were short, thus easy to recall in a moment's notice. After a few days of literally having to repeat these verses to myself over and over and over, my mood began to change. There are times when my lips cannot form a prayer and worship doesn't flow as naturally. In these times, reciting scripture is a pure form of worship back to the Father. Don't ever underestimate the power of the spoken word. Scripture lifted back up to God is a sweet offering and, if you keep at it, joy will follow.

Psalm 62:1 My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.

Psalm 63:7 Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.

It's a well known fact that regular exercise helps decrease stress and increase those positive vibes we all need, endorphins. Exercise stimulates the brain chemicals that correlate directly with our mood. So, after a few weeks of crazy and a bad attitude that wasn't going anywhere, I decided it was time to make my appointment with the gym a bit more consistent And what do you know? My brain feels a bit less foggy and the joy is resurfacing.

When I am struggling behind the scenes, pride wants me to remain silent. Pride wants me to put on the happy face that says "I'm good!" when asked the typical "How are you?" But I knew in order to start reclaiming the joy, I had to be real with my people. So I shared my funk with my sister and a few friends. This not only opened the door for accountability, but for encouragement and love and wisdom from others.There is just something about knowing "I'm not alone," or hearing others say "Me too," that lifts the spirit and welcomes heart change.

Meltdowns are ok, friends. But meltdowns and pity parties are not a place to park. We must get back up, dust ourself off, and take little steps to reclaiming all the good and all the joy. God wants more for our days and more for our lives than a depleted soul and a bitter attitude. He wants us to experience His love and His hope and the overflowing joy that only comes with His presence, even in the midst of the mess.

Even in the midst off hospital stays and extravagant plumbing quotes and rodent exterminations.

Let's do this August. . .

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Typical and Special Needs Sibling Bond

"Sister, go to park with me? I help you and you hold my hand. We swing together?"

Sweet words from little sister, Camille, to big sister, Clara, as we made an impromptu stop at the neighborhood park last week. How they stood still long enough for me to snap this shot I will never know. But as I sit here typing and examining this photo in detail, I know this moment was a sweet gift from our sweet Father. 

These moments are so precious. So very uplifting to this every now and then, weary mammas heart. Moments where I see Camille, completely typical in every way, loving and caring and showering protection and inclusion on her sister. Watching Camille's tenderness and compassion and concern for her big sister, who she knows full well struggles in areas she doesn't, is just the sweetest sight. 

I'd be lying if I said I never wondered about how their relationship might unfold. How they might grow in relationship as the gap between typical and special needs continues to widen. Because at 2.5 years, Camille far surpasses her 4 year old sister in skill and development.

Will Camille always be this gentle? Will she always be this intentional? This willing to include her and ask her to play and take her by the hand and attempt to interact, even if the interaction is somewhat one-sided? Will this continue on as toddler years turn teen years?

I have to fight lies with truth when the enemy tries to convince me that for whatever reason, their relationship won't be as strong and life-filled as two typically developing sisters.

These lies go hand in hand with all the unknowns that come when parenting a child with special needs. These unknowns, left properly unattended, make way for fear and mental unrest. So I have to replace these lies with holy words such as John 16:28, Isaiah 41:10, 2 Timothy 1:7, and Jeremiah 29:11.

And once armed with truth, I look at these pictures and I think no, I don't need to worry. Because regardless of skill level or goals achieved or intellectual capabilities, these two share a bond like no other.

I see Camille's hand, sweetly touching her sister's shoulder, the look in her eyes when she speaks to Clara, and I know it will all be okay.

I love watching their story unfold. And I'm thankful I get a front row seat in a journey not all mammas are blessed to walk . . . the journey of typical and special needs sisterhood coming together as one.

Monday, July 18, 2016

What I Want You to Know Series . . Guest Post

Several months ago I submitted a post on my stillbirth experience to the series "What I Want You to Know," hosted by Kristen Howerton, who blogs at Rage Against The Minivan.

From Kristen's blog, "What I want you to know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face."

I had no idea if my post would ever be featured, but today when I opened up my blog reader, I was surprised and delighted that Chance's story, our story, was up!

For those who have been reading for a while, you might recognize this as the same post I wrote last October for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

Check out my guest post here.

A big thanks, as usual, for all the love and support, as we continue navigating our new normal post loss. A journey, I am learning, that still has twists and turns and highs and lows, even 15 months later.

Have a great week!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Toddler Bed For My Littlest Baby

Look who is all grown up! 

Sunday night we made the switch from crib to toddler bed, and somewhat surprisingly, because my littlest babe has a hint of spunk, the transition went off without a hitch. 

We told her she could choose three friends (aka stuffed animals) to sleep with her, but the rest had to sleep on the floor. We further explained that each night she can choose three new friends if she desires, but only three in the bed at a time. Again, to our surprise, no sass was shown. No fight was had. She just said "Ok, Mama. I like Minnie, Kitty and Monkey."

As you can see, we did not set a limit for her beloved pacifiers. Because, well, I know where to draw the line.

She never got out of bed after we left the room that first night (still hasn't), slept all night, and woke the next morning and immediately started playing/reading in her bed (I left one book close by so she could pick it up to read first thing). After about ten minutes of reading to Minnie, she started calling for me (still never getting out of bed).

I'll call this crib to big-kid bed passage a W-I-N.

I may or may not have shed a few tears in the process. I know. Typical. But for the first time in four years, I don't have a baby snoozing in a crib. My littlest baby isn't a baby anymore. She's now a 2.5 year old who can climb in and out of bed on her own.

Hold me.

We are proud of you, Ms. Camille!

Next up on the toddler transition to-do list? Pacifier elimination. Anyone want to call me out on how long I have been saying that?

Ahh well, all in good time.

All in good time. :)

Monday, July 11, 2016

To The Mama Who Was Just Told Her Baby's Heart Isn't Beating

Dear Mama Who Was Just Told Her Baby's Heart Isn't Beating,

Oh, Mama. I am so very sorry. There is no shock to the system like the shock you just experienced. There is no deeper pain I know than losing a child, and I am so sorry you are now facing that pain head-on.

The emotions you are experiencing now? They are normal. The sadness, hurt, pain, anger, bitterness, frustration, anxiousness, irritability, and new fears that are bound to creep inside? Yes, sweet Mama. All of these things are real and you are not losing your mind. You are stepping into the ocean of grief and the waves come and go, some little and some gigantic. Some you can see a mile away, and some hit you with no warning.

I know it feels tempting to just abandon ship. To just throw in the towel and say "What's the point?" To not care anymore because the waves feel too big and are crashing too hard and, frankly, some moments you can't even catch your breath.

But Mama, you need to ride the waves. Don't fear the grief. I know you can hardly make sense of what emotion is coming next, but keep riding. Grip on as tight as you can and pray your way through every wave.

Your little one wants to see you smile again, Mama. I know the guilt immediately follows that first smile, that first laugh, that first moment of happiness. But I beg you to push out the guilt and embrace the smile. That first smile is called hope rising, Mama. And hope is a good, good gift. A gift that your baby and your Heavenly Father deeply desires for you. So smile big and smile bright, when the smile comes.

The big picture seems overwhelming right now. Just focus on one step at a time. Healing is a marathon, not a sprint. Just make one healthy choice right now, and then another, and then another. And eventually your load will feel lighter and your mind a bit clearer. Eventually living through your days will seem natural again. Just one baby step followed by another baby step. But don't rush the process, Mama.

Also, Mama? Please get whatever help you need to help you ride these tortuous waves of grief. Some Mamas are able to process on their own, but others need the help of a professional. Some might even need medication. There is no shame in needing help, Mama. No shame. Your life and your healing are more important than any stigma. Press into the help you need, when you need it.

Your world feels dark right now. Facing the actual night, and the idea of sleep, is beyond comprehendible. I remember those first few nights after my son was born still. I am so sorry you are facing the dark of night. But you are not facing the darkness alone, Mama. There is light pressing through. It's there. You can't see it now. But it's there. And one of these days, maybe a few months from now or a year from now, light will prove victorious. You will wake up one day with more light than you have ever known. That day is not today, but it is in your future.

You will realize that this new you, Mama of a heavenly babe, is stronger than ever before. You will realize that the darkness produced such growth, such fierce love, and such fierce focus, that you are not the same woman. The waves have stretched you to new heights. The waves have produced bold faith and bold love and bold life. You will realize that all that stuff you cared about before? It doesn't matter now. You are reminded, Mama, to live life with intentionality, to live on purpose.

I am so sorry for your loss, Mama. It is a loss like no other. But we serve a God like no other. And by His mighty hand and His loving grace, you will overcome.

Light wins, Mama.

Keep pressing towards the light.

He's calling your name.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Snippets Of Summer

Our summer started off with a bang, and honestly, is flying by So. Stinking. Fast.

We sure are having fun, though. Love these sweet, summer days.

Although if Houston wanted to turn down the heat just a notch, that would be A-Okay with me. Just saying.

There is no point in 1. Showering or 2. Attempting to do my hair. Walk outside? Drenched in sweat. Decide a shower is reasonable and attempt a blow dry? Hair has grown five feet before both feet are out the door. Thank you, Houston humidity. My poor children haven't seen our backyard in weeks because of said heat. This is the time of year when I ask Brandon multiple times a day, "Why do we live here?" And then he kindly reminds me that I would not survive in any geographical area that presents a legit winter.

Oh, right. Point taken.

Moving on.

Camille helped create a bucket list of activities for the summer, but we are holding it loosely. We glance at the list often to remind us of intentionality, but there is no stress or guilt associated with checking off items or doing all the things. Perfect balance of Type A planning vs. spontaneity for this mama.

You, too, can create a summer bucket list! Step 1- get a piece of paper and markers. Crayons will work as well. Step 2 - write down your ideas on said paper. Step 3 - hang list on fridge. You can pin that if you want. 

A few snapshots of our summer days thus far . . .

Enjoying playtime with sweet friends . . .

Enjoying lots of sugar . . . What is it about summer and the mass increase in sugar consumption? I blame the aforementioned heat. Also, please note how I only have pictures of one of my children eating several forms of well, junk. Do not be alarmed. You are not losing your vision. That would definitely be a cupcake, ice cream, donuts, and Kraft mac and cheese. So basically all of that on repeat. #momoftheyear

Lots of time exploring (new to us) activities . . .

Camille was quite persistent that the crab and fish stay in her basket. Ironic as I am 95% sure such things would never pass her lips. Please see above mention of sugar filled junk food.

Lots of fun in the (sweltering) sun . . .

(Clara started swim lessons this week. She will have another full week of lessons at the end of this month. She LOVES the water, so that is a win, although I am not quite sure how much skill she is learning. Her sweet teacher is so kind and patient, a perfect personality for Clara's needs, but it's a bit obvious her cognitive delays have him stumped. He said, and I quote, "Well, she is a challenge, but it will be ok." Sweet boy. Oh well. At least she is having fun!)

Lots of tutus, nail polish, and all things princess. Jesus, take the wheel. (And yes, daddy can take a turn painting nails every now and then. Cause mommy can only paint nails so many times in one day.)

Lots of Bible "reading" . . . These two love this toddler Bible. Melts my heart!

What's been filling your summer days thus far?
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