Saturday, December 31, 2011

This is Where the Healing Begins

It's Saturday. My family just went home, and Cameron and I are on our own for a couple days before following them to my home town for Caroline's funeral. Caroline's memorial service was Thursday night. It's been a crazy week.

I have been amazed at how everything has worked out. God has continued to be gracious. We've really needed it this week. Planning Caroline's memorial was probably one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Not just emotionally as far as feeling Caroline's loss, but also the stress on my relationship with my husband as we have had to work together and come up with a service to satisfy both of our needs, the stress on my family as they've been helping us, and the emotional and spiritual ache of wanting the service to be both celebratory and mournful while being incredibly meaningful. It. was. hard. So hard. Without a strong family and a lot of grace, we would have been an utter mess.

I have uploaded bits and pieces of the video we have of our service to the "Remembering Caroline" page at the top of the blog. Feel free to watch. It starts with Cameron telling about the beginning of our story and moves to my parents talking about our experiences with Caroline and her birthday. The end was me talking about our great victory because of our eternal hope in Christ. Just be warned that there were some tears. :)

We are still grieving for sure, but we are also feeling so much grace and peace. God is so good. We know that we will always feel the pain of loosing Caroline while we're still here on earth, but we also know that God is faithful and will continue to comfort us and keep up where we need to be. I am so grateful for His comfort. I really don't know what we would be doing right now if He wasn't taking care of us.

I have learned so much throughout my time with Caroline, but even this week I have learned even more. I know situations like ours can often drive spouses apart, but by God's grace Cameron and I have actually grown closer together. I know that situations like ours can cause a lot of fear and anxiety for future pregnancies, and while I'm not entirely there yet because we're not pregnant again, I haven't been overcome by those fears and anxieties looking toward the future. I can't say I haven't thought about it and wondered, but it hasn't been an overwhelming thing. And while we're still mourning Caroline's loss, we really are also rejoicing in His grace that she's in Heaven waiting for us.

I can't really even explain how everything has come together for us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I can't explain my emotions very clearly, either. I feel joy, sadness, relief, and hope all at the same time. I wonder about the future and what God has for us. I know it will be good, and that everything will point back to our loving Savior. I am also exhausted by everything that has been going on for the past couple months. Diagnosis, fear, anxiety, worry, faith, grace, hope, uncertainty, loss, relief, pain. But even as I'm exhausted, I am grateful and satisfied. God is gracious, loving, kind, and faithful. He has given us and will continue to give us everything we need. I am truly amazed.

I hope as you read our story that you will know the same things we know, learn the lessons God has for you, and rejoice in His goodness in your own life. I hope God is glorified in us and our story, and that He will be glorified in your life as well.

The last song we played at Caroline's service was "Healing Begins" by Tenth Avenue North, a song Cameron has referenced on his blog several times. The chorus says, "This is where the healing begins, oh, This is where the healing starts, When you come to where you're broken within, The light meets the dark, The light meets the dark." We've come to where we're broken, and we are healing thanks to God's light meeting us in our darkness, in our darkest place.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Today has been hard. There is absolutely no other way to say it. It's just been hard. We have arranged for travel to my hometown, which means we're that much closer to laying our sweet Caroline to rest. Which means that today was that much harder.

I'm really missing Caroline today, partly because it's Christmas and I was planning to have her here with us, and partly because it's just sinking in that she's really gone. My Caroline bunny has gotten a lot of use today. I had to just curl up in bed and have a good cry. I let God know how much I was hurting, and I asked...ok, begged...Him to help me. I really can't deal with this on my own. I need His grace and mercy or I'm going to crumble. It's just that simple. I honestly don't know what I would do without Him.

Today has probably been one of my weakest days to date in my journey with Caroline. My heart is just rebelling against the reality, wanting things to change, wanting my little girl back, wanting God to make things different. I don't want to go through this pain. I don't want to make all these plans. I don't want to feel like crying anymore. I don't want to think of the eternal, because the right now hurts too much. It's really, really hard.

As I've said before, I know the truth, and if I can just manage to look to the truth, my emotions will follow. That is very difficult to do today. I know the truth is that Caroline is better off where she is. She's whole and healthy, spending her days worshiping Jesus, without fear, without pain, without sadness. She knows only joy and peace and awe of the Lord. I know the truth that someday, I'll be where she is, experiencing the joy she is. I know that eternity with her in Heaven will be amazing, and that this temporal life on earth will seem like a blink. I know the truth that God will get me through this difficult time, that His faithfulness will never end, that His grace and peace will sustain me when I feel like I can't go on anymore.

I know the truth that God knows how I feel because He lost a child, His Son, too.

And today is the day before we celebrate the birth of that Son.

I wish it was easier to focus on the eternal. I wish it was easier to focus on the truth. I wish the present reality wasn't so painful. But...I know it's not worthless. Another truth. "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." -Romans 5:3-5. I'm not really wanting to rejoice in my sufferings right now. But I'm doing my best to hold on to the hope spoken of in the later parts of this excerpt. If I suffer well, I will learn to persevere. If I learn to persevere, I will gain character. If I gain character, I will learn what true hope is. That true hope is perfect, and won't ever disappoint me because it's tied up in God's love through the Holy Spirit. And what does the Holy Spirit reveal? God's love, which led to Jesus's redeeming sacrifice, which leads to my own forgiveness, so I can live in Heaven someday, with the Lord, and with Caroline, and all the other believers who have gone on before me.

As wonderful as that truth is, and as much hope as it brings me, I still struggle to live it out. I'm still learning how to suffer well. I'm not very good at it these days. I'm very glad that God is patient, gracious, and merciful. I'm so grateful that He forgives me when I screw it all up. I'm glad He can understand my hurt so He can comfort me.

Because I do hurt. A lot. And nothing but God's grace and comfort can make it at all better.

So while I struggle through this holiday, celebrating Jesus's birth and the beginning of redemption while still hurting and missing my sweet baby girl, I will cling to Jesus. I will trust that He's going to hold me when I weep, catch me when I fall, and comfort the deepest hurts I have. I will learn to hope as I struggle to persevere. I hope His glory will shine through my pain. I hope His grace will touch someone else's hurting heart because they can see it in me. Not because I am some amazing person...Ha! I'm not. But because God is good, He is powerful, He is loving, He is gentle with our broken hearts, and He longs to meet us where we are.

Right now, that is all I have. No earthly thing, person, place, or idea can help me. Nothing on this earth makes the pain bearable. The only thing I can rely on to make things a little better is the eternal. Only the eternal.

Thank you, Jesus, that you came to earth to give us the eternal, through your ultimate sacrifice. Don't let me forget that in the midst of my hurt. To God be the glory. And thank you for my Caroline, even as I miss her terribly.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

One week

I'm amazed that it's already been a week since Caroline was born. What a crazy week it's been. I am emotionally exhausted, and physically worn out. I am so grateful that this week our church has been amazing and brought us food every night. That is just one less thing we've had to worry about.

We've had a lot to do this week. Working on arrangements for Caroline, scheduling services, working out transportation for her and us. And it's the week of Christmas, so we've been trying to get stuff together for that, although that's been a low priority.

One nice thing is that we got our pictures back from our Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep photographer. They turned out so well. I love them. I'll post some at the end of this post. This organization is awesome. You can learn more about them at their website... They do photography for people who experience the loss of a child. We love our pictures.

I also have a bracelet that was given to me by several friends of mine.
I've been getting charms for it from people since Caroline's diagnosis. It's almost full now, and every time I look at it, it means so much to me. I know it comes from so many people, all showing they care. I pretty much haven't taken it off since I went into the hospital to have Caroline. I loved it before Caroline was born, and now it just means even more. So if you're one of those friends who has contributed, know that you are appreciated and have made a difference for me during this time.

My aunt and uncle gave me a stuffed bunny with Caroline's name embroidered on the ear.
I cried when I opened the box it came in. Cameron and I have shared it since then, and it has actually brought me a lot of comfort. I didn't expect that, but it has. I guess sometimes I just need something small and cute to hold onto since I can't hold on to Caroline. I miss her terribly.

Today has actually been a little bit rough. We've had to do some things that weren't exactly pleasant, and it's been a challenge. It just hurts to make some of these decisions and to know how final they are. It hurts to face reality and know the truth about Caroline. There will just be some days when this whole situation just stinks. Today was one of those days. Through it all, though, I have had more peace than I thought possible. Even today, as I had several moments of deep grief and hurt, I could feel God's loving arms surrounding me. I can't explain it, really. All I can say is that as I sat there weeping at one point today, I all of a sudden felt a heavy weight lifted from my heart. The sadness remains, and the hurt will come in waves for a long time, I'm sure, but the deep, soul-sustaining peace and comfort I have felt the last couple days is more than I could have ever imagined.

I will confess that yesterday and today were hard. Extremely hard. We had to escort Caroline from the hospital to the funeral home yesterday, and we had to go to the funeral home again today to take care of a few matters. It makes it all seem very real and very final. I broke down several times, both yesterday and today. It hurts, and I hate it. I tell God every day, and every moment I feel almost overcome, that I miss her and need His help to get through that moment. He is so gracious to give me the comfort and peace that I need. I wouldn't be able to make it through this without Him. Seriously.

I know there will be hard days amidst good days. I know God will get me through each one. I know that as each hard decision comes, we will make it to the best of our ability, and keep moving to the next step. Only by God's grace. And for that I am eternally grateful. I'm trying to keep an eternal mindset, but it's hard sometimes. It's especially hard when I'm so sad, and when I miss her so much. The best thing I can do, though, when I miss her and feel the extreme emotions coming on, is to remember the eternal. "When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." -1 Corinthians 15:54-57. I don't want death to have victory over me, even temporarily, as I grieve my baby girl. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

I hurt. I can't deny that. I cry. I mourn. I grieve. But I also have hope. Even in my darkest moments, I still know the truth...I'll see my Caroline again someday. I may not feel the ultimate comfort of that at the moment, but as long as I know that truth, my heart and my emotions will eventually follow. Just like I had to focus on the truth while Caroline was still with us, as we were waiting for God to reveal His will, I have to focus on it now. God is in control. God has a plan. God loves me, He loves Cameron, and He loves Caroline. I will see her again in Heaven. All of that truth makes the pain bearable. It makes this whole situation less agonizing. My heart is broken for the time I have on earth, but it will be whole in eternity. Just like my precious baby girl is now whole in Heaven. I will miss her every day, but I can look forward to seeing her again.

That is what gets me through each day. God's grace, both for me and for my baby girl. I love you, precious Caroline.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Before Caroline was born, I counted the days from diagnosis. When she was born, it had been two months and 9 days, exactly ten weeks. She was diagnosed on a Thursday, and born on a Thursday ten weeks later. Now I'm counting the days since her birthday. I can't believe it's already been 5 days. In some ways, it feels like just yesterday I had her in my arms. In other ways, it seems like it's been an eternity. I'm sure that's pretty much how it will be the rest of my life. I know I will always miss her like I lost her yesterday, but at some point, it will seem like it's been a long time.

I measure time in days right now. I can get through the day, but looking past today is often very difficult. In some ways, I have to look forward...we have things to plan for our sweet baby girl that will take place over the next few weeks. But when it comes to what happens after that...I'm ignoring it right now. Today is painful enough, I don't need to worry about future pain. God is good and gives me what I need each day. I trust Him in a new way each day as new things happen and make me face new hurts or new hope. It's just how it's going to be, maybe forever, but at least for right now.

In two days, it will be a week after Caroline's birthday. The first milestone of many I will have to pass. Then will come Christmas, a holiday I thought she would be here for, with us physically in my womb, not already with Jesus. Then the new year, the year she was supposed to be born in. This blog post is the first time I've allowed myself to look that far. I can only say that I'm glad my God is faithful, and will get me through each hard time as it comes. And for now, that is enough to get me through each day.

I miss Caroline terribly. I never knew I could love a little person so much in so short a time. I wish she was still here. I tell Jesus everyday that I miss her, that I wish she was here with me instead of there with Him. I don't like having to make decisions about her that don't include a future with her, only a past. The hurt is tremendous, and I have to lean on Him extra hard these days. There is an underlying current of peace and grace, but there is a strong wave of grief and sorrow. I know it's ok to feel the sorrow, to grieve my sweet baby girl. I know it's going to hurt, and that God understands it. I know He'll be there to comfort me when no one else and nothing else can.

But it's no fun. At all.

This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It will continue to be, I think, for the rest of my life. I am grateful that I have amazing friends and family to support me, and a loving God that will take care of me. I am also glad that I have a Savior that bore the penalty for me and my baby girl, so we could be together again in Heaven someday. That is one of the only things making this whole situation bearable, knowing that this is not the end. Knowing Caroline isn't really gone, just in a different home.

So. Days. Used to measure my loss, but also my comfort. Each day brings pain and grief, but also mercy and grace. Every day brings me farther from seeing my daughter here on earth, but closer to seeing her in eternity. Each day brings the helplessness of loss, and the hope of future reuniting. I learned to deal with opposing realities when Caroline was with us, and I'll continue to deal with opposing realities for the rest of my time here on earth. God's grace will continue to help me withstand the strain. God's comfort will continue to remind me of the eternal. God's kindness will continue to bring me joy in the midst of uncertainty and pain.

That's all I can do for now.

Make it through each day.

I miss you, sweet baby girl.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sweet Baby Girl

It's Sunday, and our sweet baby girl was born early Thursday morning. We came home on Thursday evening, after much too short a time holding our Caroline Grace. Handing her over to the nurse for the last time is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I knew it wasn't really "her" anymore, but it was all I had of her here on earth. Oh, it was so hard.

It's been a few days now. My family has gone home for a little while, although they'll be back soon. Cameron and I have a lot of decisions to make and a lot of plans to plan. The next few weeks will probably be some of the hardest of my entire life. I don't want to have to think about these things. I don't want to be making final preparations for my baby girl. I don't want her to be gone.

I've cried a lot theses last few days. I've been so sad that she's gone. I've missed her so much. And yet in the middle of all of it, God is gracious. He has given me peace beyond understanding. He has given me grace to withstand the strain. Even in my saddest moments, I am not overcome. I can't explain it except to say that God is holding me in the palm of His hand. He's really and truly taking care of me. He's giving my husband the ability to be sensitive and kind, even as he's mourning along with me. He's giving me the ability to be kind and loving toward Cameron, even as I don't know what to do.

And that's the thing. I don't know what to do. In all of my talking to my mom, dad, sister, and Cameron the last few days, I've realized that I had managed to figure out how to function with Caroline inside me. I had learned to deal with the strain of hope versus "reality." I had learned to live in limbo. I had learned to love Caroline while she was "with" us in my womb.

I am now in an entirely new place.

I'm no longer in limbo. I'm no longer able to hope for a healing miracle for Caroline. God has answered that question for us. He gave us our answer gently, but He did give us our answer. She came in a surprise way at a surprise time. She came just how God planned for her to. And I am so glad God was in control. He gave us everything we needed. I would never have done it the way He did it, but it was perfect. And His grace and mercy in the midst of it has been absolutely incredible. If I've ever been overwhelmed, I have been overwhelmed in the last few days by God's grace and goodness. I have felt absolutely amazed by His provision and love. Oh my word, He has provided so much. I am so grateful and feel so unworthy of it all.

But even in all of this, I am in a new place, and I don't really know how to handle it yet. Like before, God is getting me through it and showing me each step, but I no longer have any idea what I'm doing. I'm learning to trust God all over again, with a different set of circumstances. I'm learning how to live in a new life, without the earthly presence of my sweet baby girl. I'm learning to rely on God for strength to get through the hard times. Things were hard before, and they're hard now, just in a different way. God is still faithful to give me what I need, as I need it, exactly how I need it.

There are a lot of things coming in the next few weeks and months that I am really not looking forward to. A lot of it is going to hurt so, so much. And I am slightly afraid and slightly unsure of how things are going to go. I am begging God to help me, a lot, these days. Sometimes, I just sit still and cry and lift up a pitiful, "Please help me, Lord." He knows what I mean, even if I can't find words. And He knows I'm trying, however fallibly, to trust Him and His goodness for the future. He knows I'm human, that I have crazy emotions, and that I need His supernatural help to get through these things.

I am so glad He is who He is. I am so glad He can handle all of this. Cause I know I sure can't.

In all of this, I'm trying to maintain my eternal perspective. This mourning is a lot easier if I can remember that it is temporary. When I get to my eternal home in Heaven, my life here on earth is going to seem like a blink, and my time in the presence of my Lord, and my sweet daughter, will be forever. Forever. Like, for all time. Where years won't matter. I don't even know if years will exist.

In some ways, I'm so grateful that Caroline came during the Christmas season. It's going to be a constant reminder that her birthday was near Jesus' birthday (or at least the time we celebrate it corporately). It's going to help me remember that I'm going to see her again because another tiny baby came 2000 years ago. I won't be able to forget it. It will help me keep my focus on what it should be on. Even in that aspect, God is good. He wants the best for me, and He's making it easier for me to remember what I need to remember.

I know I have a lot of difficult days coming. I know I'm going to have some struggles. I know I'm going to be sad, and cry a lot. But I also know God is going to be with me. That He's going to help me. And because of that, I have peace. I don't understand it, but it's true. I am so grateful. So, so grateful. To God be the glory.

Here's some more pictures...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Caroline's Birthday

Yesterday, December 15th, was Caroline's birthday. I was 28 weeks and 3 days pregnant.

I woke up on the 14th with some concerns about how I was feeling physically, and went in to the hospital to get checked out. When I got there, we found out I was having contractions every 2 minutes, but I wasn't feeling them yet. I was also 90% effaced and 1 cm dilated. My OB, who happened to be at the hospital when I got there, and the nurse we've been working with the whole time of Caroline's diagnosis, who also happened to be working when we got there, recommended that I go ahead and check in to the hospital and wait things out, because it was likely I would deliver sooner rather than later.

Cameron and I were slightly in shock. We were not expecting Caroline to come so soon, even though we knew it was a possibility. We immediately set into motion getting our support system informed. My mom booked a plane ticket on the soonest plane, and our local friends swept into motion to help us in whatever way they could.

I didn't progress very much throughout the day. I was slightly uncomfortable, but not enough for it to really phase me much. We had several friends stop by during the day to check on us, offer support, bring us food, pray for us, and anything else we needed. We are so blessed. My mom's flight came in on time in the afternoon, and some wonderful friends of ours brought her to the hospital from the airport. Once she was there, you can imagine the scene. Lots of hugs and tears and some "Thank you for not giving birth yet!," comments among laughter.

Later that evening, a bunch of people from our church came by to pray for us and offer their support. My room was full of people, and the love and prayers flowed freely. We are so incredibly blessed.

Around 7:45pm on the 14th, I was given a labor-enhancing drug to help me progress since I wasn't really progressing as expected. A couple hours later, I had dilated to 3 cm, and a couple hours after that I was at 5 cm. It didn't take long after that to get to the pushing stage. Cameron, as a first time dad, wasn't sure what to do with himself. He was so sweet and trying to do whatever he could to help. I felt like I was being mean to him telling him to stop doing things or demanding him to do other things, but he says I was being very nice, especially for a woman in labor. Haha.

Caroline Grace was born at 1:58am on December 15th. She came into the world with a smile on her face. I like to think that she saw Jesus come for her right before she came to us here on earth, and therefore came to us with that remnant on her face. We didn't get any time with her here on earth before she went to be with Jesus, but we know we'll love her just as much when we see her in Heaven. She was precious to us anyway, and we're grateful for the time we did have with her in my womb. I will never forget her or my time with her, or the time we got "with" her after she was born.

We were able to get some pictures of her and with her, and I will treasure them as a reminder of her and all she is. She is not just my daughter, but an inspiration for many, a witness of God's faithfulness and love, and the reason we have learned to love and trust the Lord more fully through this season of our life. I have had innumerable people tell me that our story has touched them, inspired them, or brought them closer to the Lord or back to Him. I say this as "all she IS" because she is an eternal being, just as we all are. She has left her temporary home and gone to her eternal one, but she still "is" our sweet Caroline.

I will never regret any of our decisions. I will never understand fully how much God has done for us. I cannot fathom how much more He will do in the days, months, and years to come, all because of little Caroline. I feel incredibly blessed to have been chosen to be her mother here on earth, and to know I will see her again in Heaven, waiting with her Heavenly Father for us, her earthly parents, to join her.

I know I will mourn her loss. I already am. I know I will miss her. I already do. I know I will wish she was here with me a little longer. I already do. But I also feel joy and peace in abundance. I am amazed at God’s grace and comfort once again. I am awed by His goodness in such a trying time. I know He is faithful and will continue to help us heal and grow as time goes on without our little baby girl.

I also know there are a lot of people mourning with us. I want you to know God’s grace and comfort as much as we do. God is amazingly good and gracious. Please let Him be that for you. Please don’t let this time with Caroline harden your heart, make you question God’s goodness or His plans for you or us. Caroline isn’t here with us on earth, but she’ll be waiting for us in Heaven. We don't mourn without hope, because as sad as our earthly loss is, our Heavenly gain is infinitely more than all we could hope for. I want you all to see her there. Make sure you’re going to be there too. Email me if you have questions about that.

God has provided so much during the past few days. He has worked things out I didn’t even know needed working out. He has orchestrated things to make them happen in the best way possible. I laughed a little bit when I realized my last blog post was entitled “I want the best.” God probably smiled a little bit when He saw me writing it. He knew what was coming and said, “I’m giving it to you.” I am so glad I serve such a kind and loving God. He knew what I needed, what I could handle, and who I needed around me. He gave me everything I needed.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us, loved us, and prayed for us during this whole process. I know we’ll still need it in the coming weeks and months, but I appreciate and treasure all of it so far as well. This blog is not done, either. I’m sure I will keep writing for a long time.

I’d like to share some pictures of our dear sweet Caroline, and of her with us. I hope you can treasure them as much as I do.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I want the best

I go through stages with Caroline's condition. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it, sometimes I can almost ignore that it's there, and sometimes I'm somewhere in between. Through it all, it seems like God meets me where I am and that He teaches me some lesson no matter what I'm feeling. Some I can share via this public domain, and some are a bit more personal. I'm still amazed at God's goodness in gently teaching me these lessons. He's not mean, He doesn't brow beat me or treat me like the idiot I can sometimes be. He'll even patiently re-teach me a lesson I didn't quite grasp the first time...or second...or however many times.

This week has definitely been full of lessons. I'm still trying to process them all. But I am still grateful for them.

This whole situation with Caroline has been humbling beyond words. It hasn't really been an optional thing, either. I have, in a way, had humility forced on me, however lovingly and gently. I could have rebelled, of course, and held on to my pride and arrogance, but it wouldn't have been easy or helpful. And yet, I've done just that in some areas of my life.

When it comes to Caroline, I'm pretty much at the bottom of the food chain, willingly. I know I'm powerless to do anything to change our circumstance. I know she's in God's hands, not my own. I know she was never "mine," but on loan from God. I trust that God will either heal her here on earth and let my loan last a little longer, or He will let her be whole and perfect in Heaven and heal me here on earth from the pain of her loss. It doesn't mean that my life is easy or that I don't struggle to have these mindsets, but for the most part, this is how I think of Caroline. I can't worry about tomorrow, because today is hard enough. I take it one day at a time. I don't really struggle as much to be humble in our situation with Caroline because I just can' anything. I have to rely on God. I have to focus on Him and His plan, or else I will go crazy with worry and doubt and fear. It's easy when you're at the end of yourself to give God the glory He deserves, to rely on Him for everything, to give yourself up completely to Him and His will.

It's not so easy when you still feel like "I've got this." When things are still "under control" and you aren't laid out flat by tragedy. When you feel like maybe, just maybe, you don't really need to bother God with this, because you can handle it.

Big. Fat. No.

This is a painful lesson I've had to learn this week. I am a very proud person by nature. I can be extremely selfish when push comes to shove. And although I love God and have learned so much about trusting Him these last couple months because of Caroline, there are still areas of my life where I have maintained control and told God to shove it. Ok, so maybe I haven't been so crude as that, but in a sneaky way I've maintained my grasp on things that I should have given to God long ago.

I haven't trusted Him in some of my other relationships. I haven't trusted him with some of my physical, tangible needs. I haven't trusted Him to take care of certain other things for me. I still struggle to trust Him in many other parts of my life. I like control. I like to be in charge.

I've allowed bitterness to seep in to certain areas of my life. I've allowed myself to justify sinful behavior because it's not as bad as it could be, or used to be, or in comparison to some other people I know. I've made lots of excuses, including my favorite, "It's just how I am."

After all I've been learning in our situation with Caroline, how could so many obvious blemishes on my character slip through? Easy...I'm human. And I have some very bad habits. I need to break them. I've told God this, and asked Him to help me. I can already see the fruit of those prayers, and I know for a fact it ain't my doing. It's amazing to see God work so quickly for those who are open and willing to kill off the old so new can come in. I don't feel guilty. I don't feel like the scum of the earth. I feel like God has gently tried to pry something dangerous out of my hands. I feel like He's trying to show me something better because He loves me. He knows that I will benefit from increased intimacy with Him.

I don't know what you're spiritual beliefs are as you read this blog. I know a lot of my friends and family read this blog to keep up with what's going on for Cameron and I as we walk this path, but I am also acutely aware that I have strangers, friends of friends, old friends I've lost touch with, and people with the same diagnosis of anencephaly looking for hope, all reading my blog as well. Many of my friends and family share my beliefs, at least the basic foundational core of Christianity. Some of you may not. For those of you who don't share my beliefs, my blog might be confusing, or frustrating, or obnoxious. It doesn't bother me to know that some people may not like reading my blog because of the overt Christian spiritual tone. I am who I am, and I'm confident in what I believe. I will say that if you read this blog and ever have questions about what I say, I have a contact tab on this blog so you can email me. I would love to hear from you. I don't think I'm better than anyone. I think Jesus is better than everyone, and loves more fully than anyone here on earth can. I love to share that.

I say all of that to preface this statement. I've been a believer for a long time, and I'm still learning how to die to myself so Christ can live in me. In some ways, I have grown callused to God's expectations of me. I've been "good enough," but haven't sought out what God truly has for me, in ALL areas of my life. God wants the best for me. I just want "good enough."

It may sound crazy for me to say that while I'm carrying a child with a fatal diagnosis. How can God's best for me possibly include such a great loss? Such great pain? I've asked that same question of God. In my prayers, I am often not very eloquent. A lot of times, I'm crying, and what I say to God really isn't all that decipherable to human ears. It's a good thing I have the Holy Spirit there to help me out, let God know what's up. And the fact that God knows everything I'm going to say before I ever utter an unintelligible word doesn't hurt either. Sometimes my prayers literally consist of me repeating over and over again, "Lord, I want to keep my baby. Please let me keep her. You know I want her, so please don't make me give her up yet." After several minutes of shameless begging, I force myself to say, "Not my will but yours be done." I want God to know that even though the deepest desire of my heart is that Caroline would be healed, and that I could keep her, I recognize that He's in charge, He'll make the decision, and I will accept it as best I can because He knows what's best. I've also confessed to Him that I'll need a lot of help if He chooses not to heal her. He knows me. He's got my back, even though I'm not perfect.

In the midst of those prayers, it's hard to think that His best for me could involve losing Caroline. But my ways are not His. He is not limited in His scope of vision like I am. He's not limited by time like I am. He doesn't have to wonder at the end result like I do. And He's way smarter than I am.

I don't know why He would allow this to happen. I don't know why He wouldn't heal her. I don't know why I'm in this position. I never wanted it. I didn't ask for it. But I do know that good is coming from it already, and I know it will continue to. If I wasn't going through this, I might still be a pleasantly complacent Christian, walking through life settling for "good enough" when God has "best" in mind.

This week has been full of reassuring peace. God has been close to me, walking with me through the hardest time of my life. There have still been moments of pain, moments of doubt, moments of fear, moments of frustration. I have still rebelled against some of what God is asking me to do. I don't like putting to death my natural inclinations so that I can grow more fully into a right-living follower of the one and only true eternal Savior. It's hard, it hurts sometimes, and I don't like admitting I'm wrong and need to be changed.

At least God is not deluded. He already knows the worst of me, just as He knows the best. He doesn't hold it against me, because Christ took the penalty. He only wants me to draw closer to Him, and He'll help me strip away the calluses one by one. And, friends, He is. This week, I think He stripped off more than one, but I'm glad my eyes are opened, the scales removed from them. I'm learning to more fully trust Him, love Him, and rely on Him. He's reassuring me that I am better off following Him down a hard path than following my own desires. He's showing me that my ways lead to death, and His to life.

I want life. I want the best. I don't want to settle anymore for "good enough." Will you join me?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Comfort and Joy

So, it's Christmas time. There's a lot of Christmas-y stuff going on, and it's a time where most people tend to focus a lot on family and friends and all that. I've spent the last few days making goodies to give to friends. It's a fun time of year.

Amazingly, after my terrible week last week, this week has been significantly better. There have still been good days and bad days, but it's been better.

It's getting harder and harder to bend over to put on shoes or pick something up off the floor. My belly has gotten a lot bigger. I can feel Caroline moving around a good bit, as usual, but she's bigger and it's a different type of movement. She has decided her favorite spot is to be wedged up into my right side. I don't think she's terribly concerned about my comfort. Haha.

With all of these obvious reminders of Caroline, I'm a little surprised that things haven't been harder for me. In fact, I feel totally at peace about Caroline. Whether God decides to heal her here on earth or not, I'm going to enjoy this time right now. If God heals her, I would be incredibly disappointed if I spent all my time moping and being upset instead of enjoying my pregnancy. I will have wasted my whole pregnancy being sad, when I could have been joyful. If God doesn't heal her, I still don't want to spend all my time being upset. If this is all the time I have with her, I want it to be special, even if it isn't a typical pregnancy.

In some ways, I wonder if I'm going crazy to feel "normal" right now. I actually, this week, have had to remind myself occasionally that unless God heals her, I'm not going to get to keep Caroline. I have felt a little more like a normal mom-to-be this week. I think I needed that. It's been too long since I really felt at peace and comforted. And I can really say that I've been reminded of God's joy.

Especially in this season where joy is a major part of many songs, stories, and lessons taught, it's good to know that nothing can steal my joy. Nothing can steal my comfort, either. God has really placed a hedge of protection around me as I deal with this Christmas season. I was really afraid that I would be upset all this Christmas season because of Caroline's condition. But it's really not been that way yet. I'm not saying it won't be more difficult at some point, but so far, God has really comforted and sustained me. I'm focusing on all I do have, and not so much on what I might not get to keep.

I don't have any profound thoughts to share. I can only say that God is most definitely with me, and is giving me everything I need to deal with this. I know that things can change at the drop of a hat with me and how I'm feeling. I blame the hormones. Haha. But I take things a day at a time, and for today, I'm good. God is enough, and He is keeping me sane. I'm so glad I serve such a loving, amazing, comforting, big God.

It truly is a Merry Christmas. :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Terrible, Horrible, No-good, Very Bad...week.

Alright, perhaps that's a little dramatic...but it was a tough week. Not all bad, mind you, but very tough. My prayer life got a lot of exercise this week.

I think part of it is because I had two appointments this week that left me drained. I had a hospice meeting on Monday and a sonogram on Tuesday. I've mentioned before that I feel an emotional "let down" after all my appointments. It's not a disappointment, but a release of all the pent up nervous energy that I have before an appointment. I have to gear myself up for every appointment. When they're over, all that extra protect-myself energy has to go somewhere, and it makes the days following appointments a little...blah. Recovering from that emotional let down is a little hard, and recovering from two this week I think just was a little harder.

I have also begun my third trimester. It's quite normal during your third trimester to start "nesting." That's the crazy urge to clean, organize, decorate, and basically just get ready for the baby to arrive. It's hormonal, psychological, etc, whatever. It happens. So this past week, I started feeling the need to nest. Except...I don't really have anything to really nest for, unless God does a miracle. I don't need to do a lot of the stuff that a normal mom-to-be would do while nesting. I'm not setting up a nursery, and while I can clean and organize and such, it's not for the sole purpose of making baby a nice home. I'm not shopping for clothes and toys that I have to bring home and make a place for. I'm not rearranging furniture to make room for baby furniture. I'm not even sure Caroline will get to come home at all, so I really...don't have much to do.

This has been extremely difficult for me. I want to be getting ready for Caroline. I want to be buying clothes and toys and small furniture and all that. I want to be making a place for her. I wish I could make a nursery. I can't help the feelings that come along with nesting. It's just how expectant mothers are wired. I can't turn it off. But while my hormonal emotions are telling me to get ready for a baby, my brain is telling me not to. It's just one more thing to accentuate Caroline's condition. I still hope and pray that things will change and I'll be running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get things together at the last minute because a future sonogram reveals a miracle, or after we get home from the hospital because she was born healthy inexplicably. That will be happy chaos. I'm down with that. But in the meantime, I can't/don't want to act a whole lot on my nesting emotions.

I've also had a tense week inter-personally. Because I'm dealing with a lot emotionally this week, a lot of my interactions with people have been strained, especially if they're close enough to me to be dealing personally with Caroline's diagnosis as well. It's nothing irreparable, just tense. And not very pleasant. It's been hard to go through the week like that. I have felt a little bit alone this week, despite all the support I have. I have had to pray A LOT for grace to sustain me. I would not have made it through this week otherwise. I still feel like I was beat up this week emotionally. I am exhausted. I have felt stretched very thin, and I haven't known what to do about it. This is one of those times where I feel like I am completely and totally at the end of myself. I have nothing left to offer. I am just done. I have done what I can this week to make things better, and really, I can't do anything. This is just a trying time where I have to rely on Christ to carry me, which I know He's doing, whether I realize it at the time or not. With everything I'm dealing with right now, I'm reminded of something my mom and I kind of joke about, but which has a practical meaning.

I'm a duck.

Yes, I just said that. Haha.

Ducks have some sort of oily substance on their feathers and such so that water can just roll off their backs. They can swim and dive and not get waterlogged because this oily substance kind of keeps them dry. When it comes to difficult situations, my mom has always said to be a duck. Let the negative stuff roll off your back like water rolls off a duck's back. Whether it's unkind or distasteful words, or if it's things beyond our control, or whatever it is that can tend to bog us down, we need to let it roll off our backs. It's sometimes very difficult to do. I'm not usually very good at it. This week was no exception. In some ways, I have let everything going on bog me down. I've still tried my best to keep my focus where it should be, but this has just been a hard week. I'm still working on being a duck.

The good thing is, even though I have felt alone this week, I haven't been. God's been right there with me, even when I've messed up, or felt hopeless, or felt injured. The battle against a feeling of futility when it comes to a miracle, and the battle of feeling helpless when it comes to interpersonal relations, and the feeling of despair from letting our situation cloak me in all very strongly presented itself this week. Every weakness I have was preyed upon. Every insecurity I have was prodded out of me. Every coping mechanism I have has been tested. And yet I am not defeated, even if I feel like it at the moment. I know I'm not. I can hold on to the certainty that I am not alone, I am not abandoned, and I am not overwhelmed because I have a Savior who saved me once and for all on the cross, and who continues to rescue me from myself, my situation, my emotions, and anything else that tries to defeat me.

I put out my Nativity this week.
It's a Willow Tree set, and I've had it for a few years now. I've always put it out, and I always will. It's a representation of Christ coming to earth to be my Savior. But this year, as I mentioned in another post (Christmas Spirit), I really had a much stronger emotional reaction to it than ever before. I can't even really explain it. There's a yearning for something better, and a gratitude beyond this world, and a peacefulness that is beyond my understanding. It's not a special magic in the actual figures. There's nothing in those figurines that gives them special power. The change is in me, and caused by the true Savior that came. Every time I look at that set of figurines, it calls up a multitude of emotions, and I'm not even sure what they all are. But I do know this...It's helped me make it through this week. The constant reminder that God loved me enough to send His Son, and that His Son left behind the Holy Spirit to be my's almost too much for me. Not only that, but He also came so humbly. It's just amazing to me. I can't really put it into words.

So as I muddle through the more difficult days, I'm glad I have this reminder. I still struggle. I don't always respond the way I should. I don't always say the right things or do the right things. I sometimes let the chaos overwhelm me. But I always have a Savior who extends grace to me in my weakness, who holds me up when I fall, who gently leads me back to where I should go every time I wander, who will work everything out for me at some point. I'm so grateful He's there. I'm so grateful He gives me grace. I'm so glad He loves me that much, and that I can rely on Him when I'm just done.

My terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad week is a little better just because He's there. Thank you, Lord.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Spirit

Today has been interesting. A couple days ago we put up our Christmas tree and decorated it. Until today, I hadn't done anything else to decorate for Christmas. For whatever reason, I didn't really feel like it.

Today, I put my Nativity set up, put a wreath on the front door, and I put a festive runner and some other decorations on my dining room table. I feel very accomplished today (partly because I also cleaned while I decorated...).

So, my house is starting to look more Christmasy, and I have mixed emotions about it. If God doesn't perform a healing miracle for Caroline, this will be her only Christmas. I'm still including her in as much as I can. Our Christmas cards will have her name along with Cameron's and mine. We're going to get her a stocking to hang up with ours. We bought her some "first Christmas" ornaments

(Cameron and I both picked one out). And I'm so happy we're doing all of that.

It just hurts to think this may be the only time we get to do anything "with" her for Christmas.

Before diagnosis, I was looking forward to Christmas because we would have a registry of baby stuff and would probably get some of it for Christmas. I would probably be starting to put together Caroline's nursery. We would have fun talking about next Christmas and how much fun Caroline would have opening presents. I had it all worked out in my head. Of course I didn't know for sure what all of that would look like in actuality, but it was fun to daydream.

Now this Christmas is bittersweet. We can rejoice that we get to spend it with Caroline, and hope and pray that we still get to have her next year. But we won't really be getting any fun baby stuff for Christmas. We won't be preparing a nursery. We won't be talking about next Christmas. It's a little hard to think about, so that's probably why I haven't been too much in the Christmas spirit yet.

Something sweet did happen today though. I pulled out my Nativity set and put it out. I've been a believer most of my life, and my family is very faithful as well. We've always had a Nativity set out at Christmas. We've always made sure that the real Christmas story was part of our celebrating. And while I've always appreciated it, this year, it was a little more special to me.

I don't know why, but as I pulled out my figures of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and a couple other characters, I felt as if I was able to see for the first time the real Christmas story. They were real people. They weren't just characters in a story or actors on a stage. Mary was a very young woman, having her first child, knowing she would eventually lose him. I wonder how she felt on that first Christmas, giving birth to the child they named Jesus, knowing He was God and knowing He would die to save the world. Don't forget that they were also afraid that the king, Herod, would kill Jesus, and were warned by angels to flee the area. Mary gave birth in a stable, surrounded my animals. I just can't imagine. In a lot of ways, Mary and Jesus had it a lot worse than me.

I'll give birth in a clean hospital, with lots of support from my family and the medical professionals I've been working with. Unless God heals her, I also know Caroline won't have long on this earth. I'll know she won't have to suffer like Jesus did. I won't have to run for my life from someone trying to kill me or my child. I'll know that she's going right to Jesus.

I still ask God to heal Caroline. I still believe He could. I also have to accept that He might not. So...Christmas is a little weird for me this year. I am so grateful for Jesus coming down to earth, for dying for me, raising himself from the dead so we won't be defeated by death any longer. I am so grateful that because He did that, I now have free access to God through the Holy Spirit, who has been walking right alongside me this whole time, comforting me and sustaining me. I'm so grateful that I know earthly death is not the end for Caroline or for me, but that we will exist eternally together in God's presence. I also hurt when I think about Caroline going to that eternity before me. My heart aches that I might not get another Christmas with her. So many mixed emotions.

Just as in everything, I know God will sustain me through this season. I know He will give me the strength to endure whatever comes. I hope that He will give me "my" miracle, but I also hope that I can glorify Him no matter what happens. This is tough. This holiday season will be tough. I can already feel how challenging it will be lean on the Lord and not be overcome by sadness or hopelessness, but I also know my prayers for Him to help me through it will be answered. I want to focus on the Gift He gave us through His birth, death, and resurrection, not on my own possible loss or pain.

I know there will be tears this Christmas. I know I will hurt. But I also know God is bigger than that, and that He loves me enough to meet me where I am. That's the real Christmas spirit...being surrounded by the love of Christ.

I'm so glad God took the time to remind me what's really important this Christmas. It's not about me, or my family, or Caroline. It's not about pretty decorations or cookies or anything else we tend to do at Christmas. It's about the Son of God, who humbled Himself to come to earth for our sakes, so we would know how much He loves us.

Oh, how He loves us.