Monday, March 10, 2014

The Blue Twisty Ladder

"but, I can't Daddy!!", she squealed with a twinge of fear in her voice. She could climb up all the ladders on the playground except for one. This swirl of blue poles created a cylinder shaped ladder and she would not have anything to do with it. Her daddy tried numerous times to convince her that she was capable and able to climb that ladder, but she would not have any part of it. He finally convinced her to at least try it out and assured her that he would be right there to help her. "but, I can't, I can't, Daddy!!" she would exclaim, all while being half way up the ladder. Her daddy enthusiastically let her know, "you're ALREADY DOING IT, Ava!" She finished up the ladder and said, "TA DA" as she lifted her arms to the sky in such pride. She had climbed her nemesis ladder and didn't even realize it until half way to the top.

I watched my 2 and a half year old daughter struggle and then conquer her frustration and fear of that ladder, but she didn't just decide she would do it, she didn't even really do it by herself. Her daddy suggested and pushed her to try, he guarded her back, stretched out his hand to her when she needed that last grab before both feet were safely on the platform. She then exclaimed that she did it and was so happy. Her daddy agreed, "Alright! Yes you did! Way to go, I'm so proud!". He didn't correct her and say, "actually dear, I convinced you to get on it at all, then helped you half way up and there at the end, you would have fallen if I hadn't of grabbed your hand". He didn't need to. He knows his job as her Daddy and he does it without reminding Ava of the details in which he did everything. His job is to teach Ava, extend his hand when needed, have her back in protection and then praise her when she accomplishes a goal, conquers a fear or simply completes a task. He is to bless her by celebrating her accomplishments and remind her that she is able, capable and less afraid than she might think.

I relate to my daughter. So many times in my life, I know I have doubted myself, screamed "God I cannot do this! I cannot make it through. I can't do what you're asking me to" if I had listened closer, I might have heard him saying, "Shaina, you're ALREADY DOING IT". It is a lesson I have learned on different levels as life has gone by. I sat in bed last night and went through the journal(s) I kept while being in the hospital with Noah. There were lots of times when I would pray, "God I cannot keep doing this, I can't continue, I don't know how to be, how to pray, how to trust" as I read those things last night, I realized, He was whispering to me, "you will, you are being exactly who I need you to be for your family, you're praying right now, just by seeking me you're trusting me." I know that in the middle of the storms in life, we tend to doubt, question and wonder where God is. We sometimes frantically think he has left us all together and somehow we think we've earned the right to "tell God how it is". Perhaps though, maybe God is right there, right behind us, guarding our back, guiding us up the blue twisty ladder, watching us grow as we do the hard thing he has asked us to do, all to extend his hand at the proper time and then celebrate with us when we reach the top, smiling at us and blessing us with his affirmation and love.

I guess I just feel as though there are days where I feel like I say, "God, I can't do this.  I can't climb this ladder. I can't keep trudging through the hard nights, the hurt my heart feels when I imagine a life we won't ever have with our son. I can't keep going through the years wondering how things would be, all the while, my other baby is not so much a baby anymore and is growing up in stature and character. Is time passing me by Lord, so quickly that I can't even think straight? Lord, I cannot keep smiling when I really want to cry. I can't keep taking steps away from the last time I held him. It only gets further away. ....after awhile I remember and I hear him saying, "you are doing this. As you are getting further from the last time you held that boy, you are getting closer to the time when you won't ever have to let him go again and in that place there won't be a tear shed. You are smiling in my joy and it's ok to cry through the nights, as much as you need."

 So, maybe you find yourself on the blue twisty ladder today. You're screaming, "GOD I CAN'T DO THIS",  you're climbing the ladder of suffering through illness, you're climbing the blue twisty ladder of grief, you can't breathe today because you miss them so much, you're head is spinning from all the chores, kids' activities, mouths to feed, things to get done, you'r weary of being home with your children day in and day out, you are wondering when you'll get a breath of fresh air and he is whispering in your ear, "you're already doing it, I'm right here."
 It is never that we are to do it on our own as he stands by and watches us struggle, just throwing out a suggestion here and there. No, he is right there, his breath upon the back of your neck, his hand guiding you, but not pushing you. He is your encourager, your guide, your safety net, your Daddy. He will push us into things we would never ever ever choose for ourself, guide us through, celebrate when we come through it and then let us enjoy ourselves on the things we do choose and enjoy the most. Did Ava have to be convinced to climb up that ladder again? Not really. She looked at it and saw what she did, not what she thought she couldn't  anymore. So, be encouraged, friend. He didn't leave you, he hasn't left you and he will never fail you. If anything, he is letting you grow, working out your fears and struggles, with his quiet help, because He is wanting you to learn that He didn't mess up on you, He has and will always equip you where you're at, but you have to trust Him in it all. Keep climbing, dear one. The top will come sooner than you think. Then you will look back at the blue twisty ladder and laugh. "YA! I did it!"and all the while, God will be smiling and celebrating with you.
Remember, you didn't do it all. You didn't even choose that ladder. He chose you. He guided you. He brought you to a place where you could be proud of yourself, excited and full of joy. You climbed the ladder, you conquered your fear, but you were never ever on your own. Give him the honor, give him your celebration and your praise. He is a GOOD daddy.

Just don't jump off because you quit. Don't bail. Don't give up. The celebration to come at the top will be worth all the steps it takes to get there.

The next time you face a blue twisty ladder, it might still be intimidating, but you'll know what you're made of and who has your back.

Keep climbing,
Noah's mommy
 Psalm 18

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Doves

Well, February came and went. I had so much anticipation as it approached and everything was so wonderfully perfect. I never wanted to have a month that we celebrated a child we couldn't watch grow up, I still don't, but since that is a part of our life now, we had a wonderful time with all the various ways we found to celebrate Bubby, hearts and all things heart related. We started the month with some fun heart themed family meals, a few heart crafts, some heart themed artwork for a cause and then went through the month enjoying getting ready for our trip to Ft. Worth. Nick and I were able to attend Passion 2014 in Houston with our young adult/college group from church. That was a perfect way for us to approach the 1 year anniversary of Noah's death. We came away refreshed and recharged spiritually and had that time away from home, the daily grind and also from parenting for a few days. All of that combined was so wonderful. I was able to spend a couple of days after that with my best friend. We had lots to visit about, we went antiquing, had yummy lunch together, lots of laughs and catching up in person as well as some deep therapeutic talk about Noah, his death, his life, and the little boy she is growing in her womb. :) It was perfect and I flew home to a bright little girl who was so excited to see her mommy and a few days to unload, reload and get going on our Noah Day trip. :)
We had such an incredible (short but nice) weekend. The weather was gorgeous, we were able to have a fun time in the hotel, swimming and eating at places we don't have in AMA. We went to the hospital and dropped off all the amazing gifts for the CVICU family and the heart families who are in the trenches with their little heart warriors. It was a lovely time. We left Ft Worth feeling so loved, full of happiness and more refreshment! The days came last week where we remembered back to his service, his celebration evening and all of those things. We ended February with Nick's birthday and an incredible honor to be used in our Assoc. Pastor, Matt Johnson's powerful sermon on Suffering Produces Worship. wow. It emotionally exhausting for me, but to hear my son's and our family's testimony being used for God's glory was like watching Noah hit a home run, or walk across the stage to receive his diploma. He makes me so proud. Even still and forever more.

So, here we are, into March a few days and we are so ready for Spring, rain showers, thunderstorms, green grass, sunshine, warm days and freshness all around. I'm ready to get the grill out of the garage, pull Ava's little playhouse out and hose down her trampoline and get it ready for her to jump for hours. We are looking forward to some house projects and other things this spring and have a feeling of refreshment. Simplifying is my theme word this year and the season itself just screams simplify. So, closets are about to meet their maker, nooks and crannies are about to get bossed around and life is getting cleaned up around here. Last year, survival was our goal. Just getting used to life again was a daily chore and now I am seeing God's grace bringing us into a new season.

I feel like I can still peer over my shoulder and see the pit. That dark place we've been in for the last year and a half or so. I can turn around and peer down in there, I can still smell it, it is taunting me and keep whispering that it misses me. BUT, I can see ahead a little ways as well. I can see that for one, I'm not still in the pit. That in itself is wonderful and I rejoice that the pit is no longer a part of our life at this moment. We are on level ground and God is moving us into places of fruit and harvest. We continue to let him lead the way and we follow his timing, but I can feel the breeze teasing me and can tell that it's coming.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away,
 for behold, the winter is past;
    the rain is over and gone.
 The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing[d] has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.
 The fig tree ripens its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away.
Song of Solomon 2:10-13

I know some people get a little ancy at reading out of Song of Solomon and I know that it is book between two lovers, but I also read this in the context of Christ being our true love and it makes this part of our journey make so much sense. 
See, in the last year doves have made their presence in my life. Shortly after I got home from Ft. Worth, the craziness of everything had calmed down and I opened the blinds one morning and there were two little doves. They weren't white, they were the "ring necked" doves and they were kind of cooing and waddling around our front drive. It was misty out that morning and I  knew God had sent them just for me. Noah means peace, doves are a symbol of peace. The Holy Spirit came down on Christ when he was baptized as a dove. Noah (in Genesis) sent out a Dove after the flood, to see if dry land had made its way out of the flood. Doves are always a symbol of God's nearness and his hand upon our life. 
Another month or so later, Ava, PawPaw and I were out to lunch on our regular Thursday routine and we saw another dove, this time at the store. He was just flying around and then would stop for awhile on the ground. He was by himself. This time this one had more white on him. Another sign in the middle of regular life, that God's peace is always available to us. Finally, in September of last year, the PICU at Cook's held a lovely remembrance ceremony for those children who had passed away in the last 2 year. They had such a lovely ceremony that included a dove release at the end. They were beautifully pure and white. It was around the time of Noah's first birthday and it was just another symbol of peace. As Noah means peace, he has always been peaceful, even in all the turmoil of his life. These doves were symbols of peace and continued sustaining grace over us this last year. Today I feel as though, he sent a dove through his word when I was reminded of this scripture. 
Spring WILL come, even if it doesn't seem like it today with the cold temperatures. I know it is coming though. Fruit is to be harvested from the time we have been in the valley. It is like we are coming out of the pit, rubbing our eyes because it is so bright and looking around us like, "oh ya, this is what the level ground looks like, the sun feels warm and the breeze is sweet". 
I'm excited to see where God takes us this year. Thank y'all for being such support and love for us through this last year. We have been overwhelmed with "heart pictures" from so many, messages, texts, calls, cards, packages, etc. We are overwhelmed by your love. Thank you thank you! 

Noah's mommy