Thursday, May 22, 2014

Rock of Ages

There is a sweet woman, whom I never did get the chance to meet, who is enjoying the pleasures of eternal bliss in heaven as I type. The children's minister at our church has been on a rather long journey as her grandmother has had a long "road home". Her death this week was expected, although, not easy in the least. She was a strong matriarch and woman of faith in her family and her life. I knew this without ever meeting her because Keena has told me of her grandmother's legacy. As she asked me to sing at the memorial service, a hymn was suggested and I was not particularly familiar with it. I looked it up and it has a very simple melody. The words are ones that run deep through my soul though and I wanted to share with you. This hymn was written during a heavy storm, in the late 1700's as a gentleman was taking shelter from the storm under a cleft of rocks in England. He wrote the first line on a playing card and the rest is history.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Safe from wrath and make me pure

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgement throne,Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee. 

The words run so deep throughout my heart as it is such a blunt and clear description of the gospel and our deep need for it. What beauty in, "let me hide myself in thee". 
There are such vivid pictures in my head of what I think heaven will be like, of what Noah is doing up there and I like to think that he met Lillian with a big running leap and said, your Keena knew my momma!!! They would sit and visit about us and how much they love us... my imagination runs and I smile at the thought. 
Death is such an interesting event. The finality of it all and yet the mystery of eternity. The legacy of a long and well lived life of faith is something to be celebrated and we will do that Saturday for her. I feel so sad that I  never met Lillian, but she has marked my heart in a special way and now I know why Keena is such a servant and Christ centered woman of God who deeply desires children to know Jesus. Praise God for the Lillians in this world who have fought the good fight of faith and have won!!! Thank God for the Noah's who have done the same, just in a much shorter amount of time. God is complete and fully present in each of these lives and only his way and his hands can make such sense out of a place of such questioning and wonder. Thank you Lord for your salvation that is our only hope in all of this world. May you cover Lillian's family and hold them close as they grieve her departure. May you continue her legacy through her family. Praise God for His unfailing shelter, salvation and security in all of life's storms. 

Noah's mommy

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Heart Momma's 10 Ways to Live After Child Loss

 Grief is such a ongoing process that sneaks up on you sometimes. Grief isn't always crying or being sad. Sometimes, I have found recently, grief comes in the form of an attitude or a mindset. I found myself griping about every little thing today and suddenly it dawned on me that I had been fighting grief for a few days and I could no longer hide it or keep it bottled in. Once I dealt with it, I could have a refreshed mind and heart. I am learning to give myself grace. My husband sure does, as well as family and friends, especially my church body.

If you are grieving, give yourself space to calm yourself and collect yourself when things seem to jumble up into a big ball. Whether you face a big family function, an event with lots of people who don't understand or just an evening alone where you don't have to hide and then everything comes up and out.... let it happen. Quit trying to be ok. I'm learning to not be so hard on myself with this and to just let the grief come and go as it needs to. I also urge you to be honest with your spouse or close friend, family, etc so they know it is the grief that is spurring on moments of anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, and whatever other emotions you seem to deal with at the time.
There isn't a right or wrong way to get through it. Just a moment at a time. The best way to get through it, in my opinion, is with Christ, His word, and those people He places in your life that don't push you.

So, with that said. I have thought about some of the ways I have dealt with my grief, in this second year since he died. (that is just crazy that is has already been over a year)

1. Journal- this helped me in the hospital while Noah was alive and it has helped me since he died. There are times when I do not journal for weeks, sometimes I switch journals and then tear out the pages and tape them in order in the current journal. Sometimes I draw in my journal, sometimes I just write my feelings, pray, make lists, jot down ideas, etc. It is my own space to be totally honest, not pretend to be ok, and just release things from my mind. At times I have been known to unload in the harshest of ways in my journal because it is safe. Let this be a way you de-clutter your mind and heart.

2. Church- if you are a believer, you must be involved and committed to the body of Christ. It is not always easy. I will tell you that there have been times, while at church, that I have broken down, but in my church, I haven't ever felt out of place or weird. I have always been loved on and supported.
(if you need a place like this, let me know and I will get you connected here at Family Life) Whether it is during baby dedication day, just seeing sweet little baby boys in our church, babies in general, whatever, if I am hurting, I have support. I can go by the office anytime for prayer, to talk, or to just visit. Also, serving others, even in your own grieving time, helps. It really does. It gets your focus off of your grief and your hurt and turns your attention to others and what you can do for them.

3. Small Group- this goes along with church, but if you do not have a small group/life group/home group or Sunday school class or group of women you can meet with regularly, find one. This helps in so many ways. You can be connected to people, who may not understand your grief, but they have life events that have happened, they have a love for you, for coming around you in prayer, etc and can support you. This is important even if you haven't gone through grief, just life can be hard and you need support in a small group environment.

4. Outreach- find ways to remember your loved one, by serving in their name, staying connected to things they loved or were involved in, and giving back in honor of them. We still love to go to Cook Children's Medical Center and take treats to the Cardiac ICU. We love to give to Ronald McDonald House in Noah's memory and we love to reach out and tell Noah's story here on our blog and on our FB page, A Momma's Heart, so that heart families can feel connected and that someone understands where they are at, somehow.

5. Fun- find ways to have fun. Do not feel guilty for having fun either. You must find ways to spend time with family and friends. I have found that nail painting night with the girls is refreshing, relaxing and I even have moments to share my heart if needed, with women that love me and don't mind if I'm having a hard day. Family fun nights are always nice. A movie night, time at the park, doing a craft, working in the yard, whatever you can find to do, do it and soak up the moments.

6. Crying- Do it. Let it out. Don't bottle it in or stifle your pain. Let them flow, freely. The only way to keep growing in your faith, through the pain, to let out the struggle and to feel unburdened is to let the tears come. My Dad taught me that tears are words from the Holy Spirit - (In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26)

7. Dream- Don't feel like just because your child died that you cannot ever have a good life again. I am learning that I must keep dreaming, setting goals and pushing myself to better things, BECAUSE of my child and his life. If I just sat around sad and mopey about my life all the time, I would be doing such an dishonor to my son and his life. He fought every day for his life and he was an amazing little yet mighty warrior. Why wouldn't I fight every day of my life for greatness, for betterment and for what God wants for me and my family. Christ calls us to do our best, plus some. I do not want to muddle through life, complaining and thinking that nothing will ever change or I will be in some suffering hole for the rest of my earthly days. Make the most of each day and when the hard days come, try to find the blessings, but rest in the fact that each new day starts with new mercies.

8. Holidays- Make new traditions, keep old ones. Mother's Day is approaching and I can't help but think about all the mothers who are still grieving the loss of their child. Last year, a friend of ours, who was in the middle of an adoption process wrote in her blog of this subject and it was beautiful. Holidays can be burdensome and tough, but I am trying to work, this week, on how I am going to approach it. Everyone will be posting their Mother's Day pictures of their own mothers, of their children giving them breakfast in bed, flowers they got, cards and treats. In all of this, I can't help but scream in my spirit that I DON'T GET TO HAVE ALL OF MY CHILDREN HERE WITH ME. IT'S NOT FAIR. But, if I can deal with that early this week, with the Lord and prepare myself for some of that emotion and hardship, I can approach this Mother's Day with grace and be thankful that I have TWO children. Whether or not one is here or not doesn't make me any less of his mother. So I will go on and on about both of my children, as much as I possibly can, forever! Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, anniversaries.... THEY GIVE YOU REASON TO CELEBRATE, BAKE THINGS, PLAN A PARTY, USE SPRINKLES, BUY A NEW OUTFIT, SURPRISE SOMEONE, GIVE SOMEONE HURTING A SPECIAL GIFT OR JUST A HUG. Use holidays to make much of your life! I plan to make this Mother's Day a happy one, for SO many reasons.

9. Spousal support- Grief and child loss can reek havoc on a marriage if you let it. Nick and I are still in the middle of dealing with lots of different aspects of grief and "moving on" after child loss. So much of the grief does come from my side of our marriage, at least in the most obvious ways such as emotions, struggle with guilt, deep pains to hold my son, questioning myself in all the decisions we had to make. So much of my grief is personal  to the point that I question if I was punished for something in my life, with having to lose a child. So much of grief is dealing with all of that and to have a spouse that is so supportive in those times is vital. On the other hand, I have had to apologize and tell Nick that I had not realized how mean I had gotten, how snippy and rude I had been. We have to be aware of ourselves in our grief, so that we do not push away the people we need the most. I have learned to recognize Nick's needs more as well, when I am aware of how I am dealing with my grief at the time. I won't speak for Nick, in detail, but I know that so much of his grieving was happening during Noah's life. He could not be with Noah all the time like I was, he was still working full time, being a single dad to Ava at home, traveling every weekend, etc. He dealt with so much while Noah was alive, that when he died, Nick automatically felt some relief because he knew Noah was healed and whole, I could come back home and be a part of our family again, Ava had her mommy back home and Nick had wholeness again. That doesn't mean he doesn't grieve the loss of our son, his son. It just means that we grieve differently. I have recognized that and it has helped me to not question his strength or lack of emotion. Learn to communicate your needs and your struggles so your spouse can help you and know where you are at.

10. Gratitude- Be thankful. Even in the midst of the darkest days of your grieving, find SOMETHING to be thankful for. Find something that you are grateful for and focus your heart. There are times when I get so jealous of families who have alive, healthy and whole babies, especially little boys. I immediately have to focus my heart and be thankful that my son no longer suffers, his eternity is secure and I will get to be with him again. I have to remember how much Noah did in his short life to inspire and make great the name of God. I have to remember how much Noah has and continues to do for myself and others. He inspires, encourages, convicts and brings joy. Still. Find the things in your life that bless it and thank God for them! Ava, my sunshine and right hand girl .I thank God for her and her endless joy, laughter and brightness. God knew to give her to me first so I would have a constant joy, precious hugs, kisses and sweet words of encouragement. I am thankful for my husband who provides for us, makes me laugh, keeps me grounded and never ceases to love our little girl. I'm thankful for family and their endless support and love. I'm thankful for friends and their gracious hearts and kind spirits when I am down and hurting. I am thankful for our church who constantly teaches us to worship and be thankful, to press into Him and to share Him with others. They love us and our son. I am so thankful for all of these things. How can I stay sad all the time with so much to be thankful for? So, stay focused on gratitude.

I pray that you find some of this to be helpful. I am certain that God continues to teach me so I can share with you. If we can help you get through a rough patch, let us know. You can contact us through the blog. If we can share our entire story with you, your small group or church, we would love to share our son and our story so that Christ can be lifted high. Let us know how we can minister to you in anyway.

Noah's momma