Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mine

He was mine. Well, he was never really mine, but, while he was on earth, he was in the way that our children always are. They are ours, they are our responsibility, a priority, our joy, sometimes our frustration, even from day one. They are the Lord's, but they are ours. Sometimes I forget that Noah was mine. I forget that I carried him inside my womb for 9 months, I sat by his beside for 5 months, I was the first one to hold him. I was the one to hold him when he died. He was mine. A precious woman and dear friend/sister in Christ sent this to me today.


 Love your perspective having "lost" Noah. He is not lost, and how exciting for the men who will find that same hope today! Every time you pour into someone else, pray for someone else, turn yourself off for a weekend and selflessly give to others, you are sharing, honoring, and continuing Noah's impact. I always want to say "you make Noah proud" but I am not really sure how that works. I do know, that if Noah was here and could physically grow up with you as his mother, how incredibly blessed he would be, just like Ava. Even though Noah doesn't get to grow up on this earth, he was able to grow inside of you for 9 months, completely fulfilled and sustained by your body. He then felt your touch and heard your voice and constant encouragement for the remainder of his life. Your bond was incredible and I pray you still feel it as tangibly today as you did when you could touch his face. I know for a fact, that what Noah experienced as your son amounted to much more than just years or time. It was an immeasurable bond. I hope that doesn't sound insensitive or like "at least you got to have…." That is by no means what I mean. What I do mean is that his influence is strong and tangible and I see it in his momma every day. 
 
Wow. Truly, I just sat at my desk and cried because sometimes I forget that Noah was a person, not just a story, not just a legacy, not just a witness, not just a heart patient, but my son. my baby, my precious little piece of Nick and myself that God made, to bless our life with. I am thankful that for 14 months, Noah and I were together, 9 of those in the most secret place, where he was "healthy" and his body didn't have to work so hard. I know that as the years go by, people will think less about Noah and that is normal, that is fine and that is expected. What I also know, is that the more I let God work in me and through me, the more I recognize grief as a way to draw closer to the Father and that all Noah did in my life continues to shape me, he will be thought of often. Overall, he will always be mine. I've said it before, but there are days I know that God sent Noah just for me. For that, I am deeply grateful, thankful and will continue to always strive to be shaped and molded by the journey we had with him.
 
Thank you to those who remind me that Noah was my baby boy and that he will always be a part of many people's lives, but I will always and forever know that beyond all he "did for others", he was still just MY sweet baby boy.
 
Have a blessed day.
Noah's momma

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

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Sun Flooded In

I woke up that morning and had realized that I just had the best night's sleep in 5 months. February 23 was a day that is forever etched in my mind. I mean, of course, the 22nd is the day my son died and I will never forget it, as long as I live. I will forever remember the last breath he took, when I had to give him up, leave him there. I will always remember that, but I will remember the next day because, as it might sound really cold, there was a spirit of relief in my heart that I had not felt since September 24. From the day Noah was born, I could not get to sleep at night, I could not sleep deeply, I could not wake up without immediately calling the NICU or CVICU. I could not leave the hospital without making sure I had a full charge or a charger with me, just in case they called, just in case something went wrong and I had to rush back. I didn't leave often, away from the campus of the hospital, but when I did I was on egg shells. When I would force myself to go sleep in the room at the RMH, I would stay up just laying there, sometimes reading, sometimes deep in journaling and the occasional netflix binge on my laptop. I  just couldn't sleep. My husband was 6 hours away, as was my baby girl, my son was in critical condition, always, and I could not rest. I could not relax. My body and mind were in a constant battle with my heart. I trusted the Lord, sometimes it was harder than others and often I had to force myself to really hold tight to the TRUTH, but I could not actually release myself into deep sleep or comfort. There was always too much to be aware of. But, that morning, it was different. For the first time in 5 months I slept. I really slept. We didn't set an alarm that night, once we got back to our room from leaving the hospital. We just went to bed and wept awhile. We held each other and both of us slept the best we had in months. I remember waking up and the sun was pouring into the room. We had just checked into that room earlier in the week and I had been sleeping up in the CVICU since Noah was so critical. I hadn't realized the morning sun was so heavy in that room, but that morning it welcomed me and hugged me tight. It was like the Lord saying, "good morning dear, I'm still in control". Don't get me wrong, there was this heaviness in my heart that my son was truly dead and nothing I could do would change that. Out of habit I picked up my phone and realized that I didn't need to call. Noah was fine. I showered and got ready for the day, we packed up our jeep, made one last stop by the CVICU for a memento we made of Noah's hand and then we said goodbye. We stopped by the Starbucks, walked passed the dining hall and walked out the doors to the parking garage. 5 months. done. For 5 months I lived there, I was rooted there. I never really left there and then all of a sudden it was all over. I keep the last parking garage ticket in my Bible as a bookmark. It is like a little altar that every time I see it I thank God for that season. I also thank him for that day we left the hospital, because even though it didn't end like I wanted it to, God was still answering my prayers. I was coming home. I was coming back to my husband and daughter, my family, my church, my own bed. There were things that I had prayed for since we left home that God was giving me back and I realized that. I needed to be reminded, especially in the heartbreak of leaving my son "behind" that I was headed towards good things. I knew life wouldn't be the same as when I left. I knew that our home would be comfy and inviting, but as soon as I walked in, I knew I WAS DIFFERENT. I felt that I didn't belong, that I wasn't needed there. Nick had done such an amazing job at raising our girl, keeping our home and making life keep going here that I longed to be back at that hospital. Yet, I  knew the way God worked it all out, would be ok, someday. I would probably never understand it, but I would learn to accept it. As I sit here, in this home, Ava is sleeping soundly in her bed after a full day of snuggles, giggles, outings and "the good life". Nick doesn't travel every Friday-Sunday. He doesn't have to be a single dad nor does he have to sacrifice being with his son to keep a job and stay committed to it to provide for our home. We are able to go to the park together, minister at church again, be involved, soak up the times in life like dance parties in the living room, watching Ava pretend to be a ballerina on the "stage", to sit at the dinner table together, to laugh until our sides hurt. These things make life good again. They lessen the sting of the loss and fill it with healing. There will never be a time when I don't miss my son, but I can tell you that after one year of him being gone and earnestly seeking God and his goodness, He has not let me down. I am learning and growing, changing and I guess you could say, getting to know myself. After such a life changing event, one has to stop a minute (months) and re-evaluate, make decisions and changes as well as realize just how amazing you were to begin with. God has done this and is still doing this in me. Seasons are meant for change. We must seek out ALL that God is asking of us and also what He is doing in us, for His plan and glory. It makes it all worth it.

Somehow this year has been relief, even in the deepest and darkest grieving of my life, there is relief. There have been days where I couldn't get out of bed, some days I was hateful and mean to everyone I came in contact with, and some days I didn't say a word. All of these days were hard and I am not "past" it. I know there are days coming that will be dark and hard as well, but amongst it all, there is a peace beyond understanding (Phil 4:7).

We came back to Ft Worth this weekend and being in that place reminds me that it all REALLY happened. Life was lived there. Our life was lived there. Our son came into the world, changed it and then left it, all in that place. This weekend was blessed, it was so perfect to take it all in, fresh air, the three of us just enjoying each other and the "relief" of being in the middle of God's will, not the life we all begged God for, a life with Noah in it. I will tell you though, Noah is still in it. Everyday we see how he has touched our life, touched others' lives; we are amazed and blessed by all the outpouring of encouragement, love and support. WOW! God is so gracious to us through y'all and we could not have made it this year without you. Thank you and we love y'all.

Noah's momma

Here are some of our favorite pictures from Noah's celebration last year.

































Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"It's Ok"

I was sitting across from my best friend as we ate our ice cream and swapped "momma talk" and giggled about the little one wiggling and growing in her womb. Life in that moment was giddy and sweet. Literally.

 There is something about having a couple of days of uninterrupted friend time, with delicious food, refreshing conversation and simply being in each other's presence. Text and social media are a blessing in keeping a twelve hour friendship close, but aren't always enough.

Momma talk is fun and I love thinking back to when Ava was a baby and replaying it in my mind, picking out the parts I feel are good nuggets of experience for my friend. It is fun to discuss babies, mommy stuff, stay at home mommy needs and things not to forget or let fall through the cracks when it comes to a momma's heart, needs and the fun things that will always be "her" that she will not want to lose in the long days and nights of motherhood. Remembering to enjoy lipgloss, cute shoes, your favorite candle and indulging  in some chocolate when needed (or wanted)! :)

It is something special though, when you can discuss how she will be having a baby boy. She will get to watch her son grow up, take first steps, have a first birthday, get a drivers license and get married. Life is full of excitement and blessing as they begin life with a BOY on the way. All the while, knowing that I am not able to enjoy the things they will with my own boy. There is something profound that comes when a friendship has a core value of Christ with honesty and openness that transcends even the hardship of the death of a child. I have not known anyone, besides my husband that I can be so transparent and honest with and vice versa.
There is something so special about this baby boy. This baby will forever be a symbol of "it will be ok". From the moment I knew this baby was coming, even in the sting of slight jealousy, an overwhelming joy and excitement entered my heart and mind. I love that my best friend is with child. I love that she is having a precious boy and even when it hurts, it's good. Every time that boy hits a new milestone, I will remember God is GOOD. He is holy and he is the God of detail.

I don't know how to be right now. The first anniversary of Noah's death is Saturday. It is coming. It is almost here and I want it to keep being something that is coming not something that has gone. A year goes by and then another one will and another. Time doesn't stop, but in my heart Noah stopped. His life stopped. Everything else keeps going. I realize in the sweetest of moments  with Christ though, that Noah's heart stopped for a second and then he entered eternal movement.
A year ago, nick and I were in a whirlwind of decisions and emotion. I am certain that no parent goes into parenthood, even knowing your child will be born with an illness, where you are planning on taking them off of all life support. I never once in my life imagined I would be the mom of a baby boy who would leave this world before me and I would have to decide, in a sort of odd way, when that would happen. I can remember the day like yesterday. I remember being so thankful that Dr. J was on call because I knew we would have a  leader who was praying for us, asking God for guidance as well and would ride the waves with us through the day. When the decision had to be made, I remember wondering why we had to say "ok, it's time". It WAS NEVER going to be "the time". We thought it would be a fairly quick process and we didn't know what to expect. It was a surreal 10 hours. There are details that will forever be mine and Nick's. I will tell you, though, that as we listened to worship music and took turns holding him, the Holy Spirit was in the room. Until the moment Jesus came to get our boy, the Spirit never left. He is our helper, our comforter and He provided exactly that. Noah means peace. That day was peace. Those 10 hours were quiet, calm and rich in peace. The weariness of 9 months of planning for, having and walking beside our son with half a heart, began to wash away, melting off of our tired bodies, as our son's battle was being won, forever. Every procedure he endured, every line drawn, every needle poke, every battle he fought was being redeemed, reconciled and made victorious through Christ and his work on the cross, as he entered perfection and eternity of complete wellness, wholeness and PEACE. He finished his race, he won the prize and now I never once will have to worry for my son, wish he were ok, try to make it better for him or wonder what life holds for him. He is forever ok. He is always near. He has arrived and I will live each day in anticipation that His time came and so will mine. Time isn't passing by me anymore, it is coming towards me (thank you Beth Moore) with joyous fervor and great expectation.
So yes. I hurt. I ache. I can hardly breathe. I long for him. I wish I could put him to bed, kiss his head and watch him sleep. I wish I could see him grow into a man. I wish I could know him and what he would have liked, been skilled at, gifted at and cook him his favorite meals, celebrate birthdays and hold him tight. I wish all of those things. I don't wear myself out wishing or wondering why. I have since last year, but less now. I know that nothing changes what happened, but I know that what happened has changed me.
My son is my hero. He is my inspiration. He was God's way of getting my full and complete attention. He was how I became brave. He taught me to like myself and even enjoy being me. He reminded me to enjoy life and not be so serious. He taught me to thank others. He showed me how many people love me. He brought nick and I closer than ever. He forced me to trust The Lord with Ava, more than I ever had in my life. He encouraged me in my mothering, to share Jesus with Ava in every way possible. He showed Nick and I how much we would endure together and how thankful we are and will forever be for our families, our church and our community. I will never see life the same.
You see, Noah died, my heart has a deep pain and a hole where his physical presence is missing, yet with his half a heart, he has taught mine to trust more, love deeper, extend grace, give chances, live richer, give thanks, stop and take note, take chances, dream and be involved.

If you were touched by our son and would like to celebrate his first year in heaven. Take a picture of a heart, share what you are thankful for in your life and tag the picture #themightynoah

We would love to hear how God is moving in your life and as you share with everyone, Noah is remembered and God is honored!!!! Join us and celebrate.

My friend and I wrapped up our sweet visit and saying bye to the little man in her womb was like saying hello to the next season of God's goodness and rich blessing.

"It's ok." It always has been. It always will be.
This baby in my best friend's womb is proof that "He makes all things beautiful in His time".

Please share your heart picture, your thankful heart words and tag it "#themightynoah anytime between now and the 22nd.

What a joyful celebration we will have the next few days!!!

Thank you for supporting us in this as always!!
Noah's momma