Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How blessed am I?

A conversation between Sabrina and I the other day:

"Sabrina, do you miss Nicholas and Olivia?"

"No..."

"Really? Why not?"

"Because they're always in my heart."

"So if I give you a hug, and Nicholas and Olivia are in your heart, I'm giving them a hug too?"

"Yes!"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chosen

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"
Luke 1:42 (NKJV)

I've been thinking a lot about Mary. The Bible can be sometimes maddeningly mysterious, leaving out the details that I as a mother would really like to know. Did she have a midwife, or did she give birth for the first time, as a teenager, completely by herself? Where did the swaddling clothes come from? Did she have to clean herself up or did Joseph enlist the help of the village women to attend to her needs?

As I contemplated what it would have been like for her to be the mother of the Messiah, it struck me that she probably didn't know he was going to die. She knew he was the Son of God, the Saviour, and even though his life was threatened on many occasions, she carried the knowledge of his divinity in her heart. I imagine she was as shocked as any when he was actually executed and passed away. I can relate to her.

She was selected as worthy of the honor of raising the Son of God, a child destined to die an untimely, terrible death. As someone who has been given children whose lives were not lived as long as I expected, Mary brings me a new perspective. I have not been robbed. I have been chosen.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Retreat

Today, I gave myself permission to retreat. I've actually been in retreat for a couple of weeks, but it's taken this long to release my guilt over it. There's something in me that I feel needs protecting, from busyness and overindulgence, from insensitivity, from people who mean well. I get overwhelmed easily, and have decided to give myself permission for that too. After all, if I could control it, I would. This year, I seem to need to be taken care of instead of being the one who does the caretaking. I believe that being in this place of need is right where God wants me to be.

I love Christmas. That hasn't changed. I don't even know if my approach to it has changed. I love to give gifts, and eat, and gather with family and friends. I think that what has changed this year is that I'm quietly waiting for the Saviour.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Get Me off My Mind

God can teach us things about ourselves in any life situations that we are willing to see Him. Tonight, I was wrapping presents for family and Sabrina saw some of them before they were wrapped. Her first reaction was to start crying and ask why she wasn't getting anything.

I had to remind her that Christmas was coming and that she would be the recipient of many presents from a number of people, but she would have to wait. She was then skeptical that she would get what she wanted and promptly sat down to write out a list of exactly the things she was expecting to get. I was disappointed that she didn't trust us enough to give her the things her six-year-old heart desires. And in that moment I was pondering these things, the revelation hit me. That is what I look like to God sometimes.

I've been looking around at what everyone else is getting and my first reaction is to cry out to God and ask why can't I have it too? Do I even trust Him at all that He knows the desires of my heart and that my own Christmas is coming at just the right time, even though I can't see it yet? Or am I so focused on me that unless I get exactly what I think I want, that I can never be truly happy?

Now if Sabrina had continued to persist with her selfish attitude, I would be less and less inclined to give her what she wanted and more and more likely to put her in situations where she would be giving instead of receiving until her self-centredness had disappeared in the joy of blessing others. Since she's six, that would be a hard lesson for her right now. But I'm thirty-three and old enough to know better.

I've got to get me off my mind. Christmas is coming and my Father has it all taken care of!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Antidote?

Of course I know what the antidote is. I just get tired of applying it sometimes.

Do you understand? It's not just losing someone you love that's the hardest part. It's how it continues to redefine you and remind you that you are somebody different now. Someone who has been shattered and put back together again. Strong, but not by your own strength. Something new, unfamiliar.

And every time I take the pieces of me and try to pull them back together on my own strength I fail. I rail against God for breaking me. And then when that subsides, I let Him pull my pieces back together for me again.

Grief Boils

I think God had the grace to give me a cold so I would be forced to take some time at home today. Busyness is grieving's worst enemy, as it leads to a phenomenon I've decided to call "grief boils". The stuff that you need your alone time to let out builds and builds until something (usually completely unrelated) sets it off and it all drains at once. Like a boil that has been lanced.

I realized about halfway through the morning that I had been so crazy over the last couple of days because somewhere around today (I am NOT going to add another anniversary to my already too-long list of dates, so I choose not to remember the exact date) we found out that Olivia was going to die too.

I think that may have been the bitterest day of all. How can you shatter something that is already broken? I stood on my back step on a cold December day, about a week after my son died, Olivia's car seat in hand, and forced myself to say, "Your will be done, Lord. I don't have the strength for this" as I prepared myself for the diagnosis from the doctor that this mother's heart already knew.

Sometimes I get so annoyed that this is still a part of my life. What is the antidote to grief boils?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I Learned From Nicholas

A big smile goes a long way.

Be thankful for every breath.

There's always time for snuggles.

Accept the things you cannot change.

You can say everything you need to with your eyes.

Nicholas' New Birth Day

On November 27, 2007 our Nicholas left this earth and was born into the presence of the living God. We who are left here without him mourn his absence, for he was a beautiful, sweet boy.

Nicholas, we remember you every day, but today, on your New Birth Day, we release you again to eternity, just as we did for the first time a year ago.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This Week

I've been very kind to myself this week. I've treated myself gently; I rested when I was tired, worked when I needed to focus on something, met friends for breakfast when I needed a boost.

I had anticipated that this week may be difficult and arranged to not be at work. I am grateful to have the freedom and consideration to do that. It was good that I did. One of the things I would have never expected about grieving is how much energy it takes.

You know, the week started out as I thought it would. We had just returned from a family weekend getaway, and as Sabrina went off to school and Corrie went off to work, I was home alone with my thoughts. Since this week is a significant anniversary for us, of course last year this time was on my mind. I succumbed to depression.

I feel Nicholas & Olivia's absence in everything. It is something that is always present with me. I think I've reached a point of acceptance where this is just the way things are. But it's things like family weekends where they should have been there, and putting up the Christmas tree, and being reminded of what my little boy went through before he died that make it just too hard to accept some days.

And that's where God rushes in and lifts me up. He carries those things that are too heavy for me to bear. My friends, I speak the absolute truth here. There is no way that a person can suffer unspeakable loss and emerge whole without the saving grace of God. He met me right where I was at and I have been renewed and comforted. The reality of Nicholas' death has been before us every day since November 27, 2007. Tomorrow we will remember our little boy. But we will also honour our journey over this past year and celebrate God's goodness to our family.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Mourner's Code

(from Healing a Parent's Grieving Heart - 100 Practical Ideas After Your Child Dies by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.)

1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.
No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don't allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.

2. You have the right to talk about your grief.
Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don't feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.
Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt, and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as a part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don't take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do.

5. You have the right to experience "griefbursts."
Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6. You have the right to make use of ritual.
The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don't listen.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.
If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won't be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. You have the right to search for meaning.
You may find yourself asking, "Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?" Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the cliched responses some people may give you. Comments like, "It was God's will" or "Think of what you still have to be thankful for" are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. You have the right to treasure your memories.
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.
Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Beginning of the ...

I have had quite a few caring questions lately about how we are doing. The more perceptive of those around us (or those closest to us) recognize that November could be a difficult month.

The beginning of the end.

Or, the beginning of the ... beginning? Forgive me for being eternally optimistic, but there has been no ending here. We celebrated Sabrina's birthday in a way we were not able to last year. We have been loved on and cared for by family and friends. God has been present, cushioning us and protecting us from November in many expected and unexpected ways.

I look outside my window and am comforted by my Christmas lights. My brother bought them and put them up after Nicholas' funeral as a gift to us. I didn't let Corrie take them down this summer because I love to see them and be reminded. I read the comments on my blog posts and am encouraged by Corrie's mom. She always has words of love and grace when I need them most. I treasure each one of them. An aunt leaves me a voice mail and tells me she loves me. Friends tell me they're thinking of us and praying for us. I know my dear friends on the prayer team are holding our family up in intercession.

I still have a lot of questions. I heard a great quote that "trust means that you will have unanswered questions." I choose to trust and believe that there are very good answers somewhere to my questions. I still miss my children. They are as close to me as breath. Nothing will change that.

I have learned that there are very few things in my life that are truly under my control. November and its memories are not under my control. They exist, just as they are. What I can control, is how I respond to them. That, my friends, is what replaces despair with hope.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Way I Remember Him

As I was going through my pictures, I discovered that the last photos I took of Nicholas were when I was trying to capture his smile:

November

I recently took advantage of a Black's online sale on photo prints and made about 3 sets of pictures of Nicholas and Olivia. As I sat down today to date them and put them in order, it struck me that there are no pictures at all in the month of November.

I missed a whole month of Olivia's six-month life. Now, I know that I was at the hospital with Nicholas and that was just as important, but I remember thinking at the time, "I'll have the rest of Olivia's life to enjoy her and spend time with her...I don't know how long I have with Nicholas..."

I can't even say what I would have done if I knew then what I know now. How do you balance your time between two terminally ill children?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Going in Circles

I've been going around in circles. Even though I feel like I've moved into a new season in this grief journey, it doesn't mean that the ever-increasing signs of fall have not triggered the occasional grief storm of memories in this new season.

I remember Nicholas getting sicker and sicker. Taking him to the hospital in the middle of the night. Missing Sabrina's 5th birthday party. Not understanding what the doctors were trying to tell us in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Being surprised that God actually took Nicholas and didn't heal him.

This is where my circling starts. If I know God to be good, and Jesus to be a Healer of "all who were brought before Him", then my logic follows that Nicholas and Olivia, who were brought before Him countless times in faith, should have been healed. I was expecting it, believing in it, putting all of my hope into it.

When they died, one by one, I shifted into needing to bring meaning to their lives by holding on to the goodness of God and how they fit into His plan. But, as time went by, and I felt safer asking God those big questions of "why?" and "how could You?", I realized I was mad that I couldn't understand how something like this could happen to someone who loves Him and seeks to serve Him.

But I keep coming back to God's goodness. Without the sovereign rule of an infinitely wise and loving Creator, life has no meaning. Without God, even a God that I can't understand, there is only despair. I can't live in a world where babies die for no reason. Even if I can't know why, at least I know there is a "why" that I will see in its entirety when I meet them on the other side.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Kieryn Hope Elizabeth

This little treasure is the newest addition to our circle of friends.

Kieryn Hope Elizabeth, we have waited a long time for you to come. We are so excited you are here! You came into being when all we could do was hold on to hope.

And you look so cute in Olivia's sleeper!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It's Not Denial Before Dancing...

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness...
Psalm 30:11 (NKJV)

I was uncomfortable with my last post. I don't really like to write about the darker things I struggle with, but I've committed to being real here. I don't use words like "jealousy" and "sorrow" lightly, because overall I want to emphasize how good God has been to us.

My friend Misty's comment on that post struck me with its simplicity. I love how she brings perspective into those places that I'm still seeing with my old self, the "me" before Nicholas & Olivia. I was sharing about how I don't want to be "that person", the one with the tragedy. And very clearly, she reminded me that in order to dance, you need to go through the mourning.

After all, she said, it's not denial before dancing.

So there it is. On the whole, I navigate life pretty well, thanks to the grace of God. I overflow with joy at meeting new babies. I love the abundance and mystery and miracle of a woman carrying new life. I also long for what I had, and while I walk this earth, will always carry sorrow for two precious lives ended before their time. I will not deny that.

But I will yield it back to my Father, and ask Him to make something beautiful out of it. That's where the dancing is.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Step by Step

Sometimes it feels like I'm walking a minefield. I'm in the age group that is having children and adding to their families. I'm surrounded by birth announcements, pregnancies, new babies, couples at church with children in tow. I cannot avoid the constant reminders of what I've lost.

I take a step forward and celebrate with dear friends. Next step. I relinquish the jealousy that rises up. Another step. I keep my sorrow to myself at the announcement of more baby news. I don't always want to be the reminder to those carrying new life of the worst that can happen. Step by step, my Lord walks with me, taking the hit of those landmines exploding all around.

And He enables me to find joy in the presence of new life, the hope that comes with increase, and peace in the promise of good things to come.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Remembering Hope

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.
Psalm 27: 14(AMP)

I've been going through and working with my photos and home movies lately, with the final goal being complete backups to put into the safety deposit box, and memory DVD's and photobooks created so that all that can be remembered of Nicholas & Olivia is not forgotten.

We're also heading into the time of year in which this journey began. As I posted previously, I don't feel the need to dwell there, in "this happened around this time last year", but as I go through pictures and movies I remember.

God is so good. What I remember this time is the hope. We were so full of hope! If you were to look back on the events of a year ago with bitterness, you would think our hope was foolish. But if you can look back on everything that happened through the lens of the Truth, you can see how God used hope to strengthen us, sustain us, hold us up, and pull us through.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thoughtful Gift

Two of my dearest friends gave me this locket on the day of Nicholas' funeral. Corrie, knowing my love of "sparkly things", gave me the necklace to go with it for Christmas.

It opens up to hold pictures of all 3 of my children, so I can keep them close to my heart. It is also such a symbol of how our friends identified with us in our loss.

Gavin Nicholas

I miss my little guy. Still smelling of heaven, eyes full of wisdom, resembling my son and carrying his name. I believe he had something to tell me.

I was delighted to discover that I have come full circle. From the chaos surrounding my first baby, to being overwhelmed with the joyful abundance of twins and lacking the capacity to fully take it all in, to coming face-to-face with his quiet peace.

We toured his house, whispered secrets and bits of wisdom to each other, and the Holy Spirit healed another piece of my broken heart.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seasons

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

In my previous post, I wrote about experiencing a separation from what was then to what is now. A friend of mine commented that God had promised me a new day, and that I am walking in it. That so resonated with me because it describes this new place in which I seem to have found myself.

I am not in denial. I know very well that my twin babies died one after the other last winter. Neither am I in avoidance. I look at their pictures, think about them, engage in conversation about them, talk to them. I have visited the hospital wards where they took their last breath.

But that was then. Time has done its job of steadily moving me from season to season. I hope it's not too soon to say, but I believe that I have entered into a new season of accepting what has been and being comfortable with where I am now. I wish my twins were here. I think they would have been really delightful children. But their absence from my life has subsided from being something that I'm missing out on to something that just is.

Each season comes with new questions. "How can I do this?" changes from despair to practicality. Now we are asking ourselves, "What do we do with their room?" and "Are we going to try to conceive more children?" The choices we are considering now do not supersede or deny Nicholas & Olivia's existence at their specific point in time. They are simply in a new season.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Did it All Really Happen?

As Sabrina heads back to school, I'm reminded of where we were a year ago. A whole year ago!

I kept trying to write this post from the perspective of what we were doing last year this week, but it just wouldn't write. I think I'm in a place right now where I need to leave those memories there because I'm here now. Does that make sense?

This is a new place for me. I've been vaguely aware of a growing sense that I am gradually moving forward from what has been toward what will be, but don't know how that can happen without leaving my babies there. How do I live in this place and still be Nicholas & Olivia's mom? How do I keep them alive in memory and spirit where I'm at now because I cannot be there and here at the same time?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Found Treasure


I've been getting ready to visit family and am gathering up pictures and things from Nicholas & Olivia to bring them. To my joy, I discovered a disc that had photos of their dedication. This photo is one where we are praying over them. I love to see how tiny and bright Olivia is and how tenderly Corrie is holding Nicholas. They were 2 1/2 months here...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beauty from Brokenness

The underlying theme of this blog has not only been to remember my twins Nicholas and Olivia, but to chronicle the journey they have taken me on, from conception to pregnancy to infancy to death to life after death. I am grateful for the gifts they have given me on this journey and I am overwhelmed by how much God cares for me each time I continue to be presented with one.

The latest gift I have received is vulnerability. Now, those of you who have read this blog all the way through may argue that I have been vulnerable here. I agree. It has been uncomfortable, sometimes scary, always rewarding. I have an intense need to not be judged, to be found acceptable, to execute every situation perfectly. To not be rejected for who I really am and what I'm really thinking about. This has been a relatively safe place to do that.

Is there a deeper level of vulnerability? For me, yes. I've decided to put my profile on to Facebook.

OK, before you roll around with laughter or mouse over to your Favorites to hit another blog, hear me out. I've been a Facebook "lurker" for a while. I hack into my husband's profile and go and see how everyone's doing, share nothing of myself, then log off. My eyes were opened to see that this is how I do relationship. I choose who I want to open myself to, and when. I hide behind surface interaction and share nothing. Even this blog, while a big step for me, has only allowed you to see what I wanted to write about.

Without this amazing journey with my beautiful babies I don't know what would have brought me to this place where God could speak so deeply to my heart. So, tonight, I become a "lurker" no more. I choose to put myself out there in a new and challenging way for me and will see how God uses it for my good and not my harm.

There are some who will read this post and have no idea what I'm talking about. That's OK. God wired you to be social, interactive people and I believe that God in His goodness has placed you in my life to be an example of how I've always wanted to live. I love you for wondering why I would be apprehensive about doing something that you think is really fun. I pray that you understand that revealing myself in this way is a step of faith and that it is a big deal for me.

Thank you Father, for sending Nicholas and Olivia into my life to put me on a path that I didn't even know I needed. Thank you for the gift of brokenness that continues to soften my heart, open my eyes, and set me free. You have promised to make a something beautiful out of all the shattered pieces.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mad at God

I was surprised to discover this week that I was still mad at God. Surprised, because I believe in a loving and all-wise God, one who is kind and just and sovereign. Only such a God could be trusted with the eternal care of my babies.

But in an effort to be authentic, I should tell you that I still indulge myself occasionally in being angry at my Creator who took my children from me. On Tuesday, seven months after Olivia's death, I was overcome by a grief storm triggered by a number of things. After a day of seeking the Lord and enveloping myself in the peace and comfort of my home, He revealed to me that I was still mad at Him.

I didn't know what to do with that. I can't do this thing without Him, and now I didn't know if I could do it with Him either. What was amazing, though, is that He met me there. He reminded me that I could be mad at Him and still be in relationship with Him. That He could heal that too, if I would let Him.

So I did. And I realized part way through the next day that I wasn't angry anymore. That my perspective had been restored. What I've discovered over the last couple of months is, the sooner I submit all my emotions to my Saviour, the sooner He can heal them and establish me in peace. And now when I examine what my thoughts were about during that time, I am grateful for His perspective, because now from the other side I can see that they were just not right and could only lead to deeper despair.

God, You are so good. You lift me up, turn me around, and set my feet on higher ground.

Prayers for the Babies

We just learned today that a family we know gave birth recently only to have to say goodbye to their baby the same day. I was talking with Sabrina about how this little one went to Heaven to join Nicholas and Olivia, and she took it in stride. Then she asked, "When will baby Gavin die?"

**SIGH** I took some time to remind Sabrina that not all babies go to heaven, that in fact, very few of them actually do. We just know more of them than other people. So, we prayed for all the babies tonight, and in my own prayers I ask the Lord to restore Sabrina's innocence and to surround her with babies to play with and enjoy.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Welcome, Little One!

(08/13/08 - Oops! I had Gavin's birth date wrong when I originally wrote this post...check out my mother-in-law's comment about how all his "stats" are eights! Freaky!)

We are thrilled to welcome into our family Gavin Nicholas, our newest nephew. We have been waiting for him to arrive for a long time and he made his way into the world late in the afternoon on August 8, 2008. We are blessed indeed!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Pillar of Salt

But Lot's wife looked back from behind him, and became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26, AMP)

I've been thinking about Lot's wife today. I've also been really missing my babies today. Everywhere I go they follow me like little ghosts - I've been thinking with the "would have's". If I was grocery shopping, I "would have" had to go to Superstore because they have the bigger shopping carts that can fit two kids. They "would have" been poking each other and getting mad, reaching out to either side to pull down things from the shelves. If I was in the back yard, they "would have" been playing in the grass, with chubby little legs and bare little baby feet. Maybe they "would have" been walking on their own by now. Sabrina "would have" been playing with them. If I was having a meal at the table with our family, they "would have" been lined up in their high chairs side by side. I "would have" hardly been able to eat because I "would have" been feeding two babies at the same time.

You see what a trap this is? The footnote to the verse above discusses that not only did Lot's wife look back when instructed to keep going forward, but she most likely lingered behind and literally became a pillar of salt due to the brimstone raining down on Sodom.

I can understand why she looked back. That's where her heart was and even though an angel of the Lord was there to lead her forward, she wasn't able to yield her heart's desire and consequently stayed there suspended in time forever.

I don't want to become a pillar of salt. I know I need to be looking toward the Lord instead of back to what "would have" been. What "would have" been is a dangerous place to go to because it can only bring despair. There my dreams can never happen because they are based on something that isn't a part of my life here on earth anymore. I need the Lord to come and dream new dreams for my family, to breathe new vision into those places where our dreams have died, to gather up the fragments of our shattered dreams and create something we never could have imagined.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Foreigners and Aliens

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household... (Ephesians 2:19, NIV)

Sometimes I think that losing a child is kind of like being abducted by aliens. You get sucked up into something that you NEVER wanted to see or know about, have things done to you that you NEVER wanted to have done, experienced things that someone should NEVER experience, then get dropped back in to "life as usual" here on Earth. Now you are someone who knows things, who has seen things, and live life looking through a different lens.

I am frequently reminded me of how I seem to have become an alien here on Earth and a citizen of another place that very few people understand. There are not many people who really want to know what's "out there", and I think that most would prefer not to be reminded that I've been abducted by aliens. Twice. Within a few months. They just don't know what to do with it.

Aunty Tricia

I still have two beautiful bouquets of pink carnations in my house from Nicholas & Olivia's birthday party. They remind me so much of Olivia and her Aunty Tricia. Tricia works as a florist, and can be counted on for always providing the perfect flowers for our special occasions and celebrations. I love how she can bring that touch of beauty whenever we gather together.

Aunty Tricia is my sister-in-law, my brother's wife. We love her a lot and are so glad to have her in our family. After we had the twins, she actually came and stayed with us for a while more than once to help us out. We knew that if we were at the end of our rope and needed "reinforcements" that she would rearrange her responsibilities and come and help whenever we needed her.

Aunty Tricia had a way with Olivia, a special bond. Livvie was colicky and difficult to feed and keep calm for her first three months. We were afraid to change anything in her routine because she would usually overreact and would take a really long time to settle. Then Tricia came along and turned all our theories upside-down. She would strip Olivia down to her diaper and let her roll around while we would have wrapped her up snug and warm in a blanket. She would talk and sing and play with Livvie when we would have been trying to rock her to sleep. Olivia was fascinated with her.

Tricia came along when we really didn't know what to do anymore. I'm so thankful to God for sending people like her at just the right time. Pink carnations not only remind me of Olivia, but of Tricia's heart.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Overwhelmed

Well, for those of you burning with curiosity, Nicholas & Olivia's birthday party went very well. The reason for my long absence has been due to the camping trip Corrie, Sabrina, and I took after the party to spend some time together as a family. That was really good too.

So, now as I contemplate where we are at right now as a family, I am completely overwhelmed. With gratitude. With thankfulness. With joy. With blessing. With sadness too.

Let me share with you some of the highlights of Nicholas & Olivia's birthday. Do you know just how good our friends are? Not only did they host the party for us so we would not have to stress over it, but they organized a memorial gift for us:

These are the meanings of Nicholas' & Olivia's names engraved on a large piece of slate that is now placed in our garden. What this means to us is that they haven't been forgotten and never will be.

We had pink carnations for Olivia and tealight candles for Nicholas. For those of you who don't know the details of their memorial services, these were the items we chose to represent the beauty they brought into our lives the short time they were with us.

One of our good friends, who lived next door to us when I was pregnant with the twins, brought a strawberry plant each for Olivia and Nicholas, already bearing fruit. What a wonderful living reminder of the sweet things they brought into our lives:





What more can I say? The only thing that would have made the celebration better would have been to have my precious babies there. That's where the sadness comes in. It doesn't get any easier as time goes by, it just gets seasoned with acceptance.

My greatest fears were defeated that day. Nicholas and Olivia will not be forgotten, even as time goes on. Our loss was honored and not dismissed, and we were surrounded by the love and support of our family and friends. God is so good to us!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Nicholas & Olivia!


One year ago, our lives changed forever, and we're the better for it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A blast from the past...

This is me one year ago...at just over 38 weeks...


How about from this angle? If you look closely, you can actually see each twin on either side of my belly...Olivia on the right and out front, Nicholas on the left and farther in...

Birthday Preparations

Well, the more observant of you (or those of you who know me) will notice that Nicholas & Olivia's birthday is rapidly approaching. It's on Friday, July 18. It would have been their first birthday. It's also a birthday they share with their dad, if you can believe it!

A while back, I predicted that this milestone was going to be really difficult. Now that it's almost here, I'm surpised to find that at this point I'm pretty excited about it. We're having a party with our family and friends to remember them, and planning this party is something that I can actually do for them as their mom. I get to talk about them, and show others pictures of them. I can acknowledge that they really did live here with us for a time, and all within the comfort and support of those who love them too.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Beauty of Grief

Just after Nicholas & Olivia died, I resisted grieving. I figured if I was in relationship with God, and sought Him in prayer and the Word, that I would be exempt from having to feel the pain of grief. I avoided it.

The beautiful thing is that it couldn't be avoided. Grieving was something I had to experience. And in the experience of it, I discovered that feeling my pain instead of suppressing it was the best thing for me. I had been afraid to feel any kind of negative or painful emotion because it felt out of control - I didn't want to go to a dark place I couldn't come back from.

Grief was the ultimate test. Here were painful emotions to big for me to suppress. There was no alternative - I had to enter into it and hope that I would emerge on the other side. And to my surprise, I did. I also discovered that when I acknowledge the sorrow and grief when it comes, feel it, and release it to God, I would feel better. Hopeful again.

That's something I never experienced before Nicholas and Olivia graced my life. I can honestly say that I am a happier person now. Yes, I carry great sorrow, but I also feel great joy. I love deeper, and get more excited about life. When I was not acknowledging my emotions, and actually trying to control them, I didn't feel much of anything.

Why do we avoid pain and grief? Because it's unpleasant. But maybe the unpleasantness is the signal that we have something we need to bring to Father to take care of. What I do know is that without knowing loss I could not know abundance. Without knowing pain I could not know pleasure. Without knowing grief I could not know joy.

Lord, I need Your grace...

Heavenly Father,

Sometimes I don't know what to do with the sad memories, but You do.

I remember the desolation of looking up at Olivia's hospital room window as I left to go home for the evening. I remember weak cries and sweaty foreheads as my babies struggled to breathe. I remember limbs and muscles as limp as noodles. I remember the sound of the cough assist machine and the whooshing sound from Nicholas' BiPAP mask when it came loose. I remember how that mask made his little nose red and raw, too.

I remember standing helpless as a "medical 25" was called for Nicholas in the middle of the night - his tiny body surrounded by medical professionals trying to keep him alive. I remember when my babies would get too uncomfortable to be held. I remember asking for more and more morphine when Olivia was declining and in distress. I remember having to authorize and carry an "advanced care directive" (a "DNR") and a letter for the Medical Examiner & funeral home in case Olivia passed away outside of the hospital.

Oh Lord, I need Your grace...I don't know what to do with the sad memories, but You do. These are things that should not be part of a parent's experience, but You have promised to make beauty of my ashes, to turn my mourning into dancing, to give me double for my former trouble. Father, how grateful I am that I do not have to carry the burden of these memories on my own. I am trusting you to come and be my God of all comfort.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Mine!

I wonder...

if we were able to come to a place where we didn't feel entitled to everything we got from God, would we grieve the loss if He chose to take it away?

if we didn't feel that God owed us those things that we think we should have, would we grieve the loss if we never received them?

if we could live in a state of complete trust in our Creator's knowledge of the deep longings of our heart if we understood His desire and ability to fulfill them?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I would like to set you free today...

I would like to set you free today. Free from the responsibility to make me feel better. Free from the need to "get my mind off of things." Free from the obligation to remind me that "things will get easier."

I would like to set you free today. You can just listen to me and you don't have to offer me anything. Really. I am well aware that "time heals all wounds", that my children "are in a better place", that I need to "keep on going".

I would like to set you free today. You do not need to take on my sorrow, nor are you accountable for my happiness. You can talk about my children - please, talk about my children! They are still my children whether they are here or not.

I would like to set you free today. I know you love me and it's hard for you to see me in pain. I want you to know today that God loves me like crazy and His grace covers all those things that you don't know how to respond to. Thank you for reaching out to me in the ways you know how.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What's In A Name?

I love my children's names. You really need to love their names, because you say them often: "Sabrina, please come here. Sabrina, can you help me? Sabrina, I love you. Sabrina, please clean up your room. Sabrina....what are you up to?" Their names are precious to me, because Corrie and I chose them with love, care, and consideration for their future.

Sabrina's name came from the main character in the movie "Sabrina" (the newer one with Julia Ormond & Harrison Ford). Corrie & I really liked the name, and for us it was associated with this beautiful girl with a good heart who ended up with the fairytale ending. Her middle name is Faith, because it was going to take a huge leap of faith to leave our comfortable life as a couple and invite a child in.

When I was pregnant with the twins, I knew that I wanted to have an Olivia, because to me it means "one of peace". I knew God was going to give us a peaceful experience with our next child since we had such a hard time adjusting to life with our first baby. By God's grace, Corrie liked the name too. Her middle name is Hope, which I think speaks for itself.

Once we found out that we were having a boy as well as a girl, we struggled to find a boy's name we both liked. Nicholas was a suggestion from a family member, and we both liked it as soon as we heard it. When I looked it up later, I saw that it meant "victory of the people". What a legacy to give a child! His middle names are Jan William, just like his dad.

I don't have the opportunity to speak Nicholas' and Olivia's names as much as I would like. I believe a name defines who you are and is a part in shaping your destiny. It is very much a part of you. I never thought that a part of grieving for departed children would be a realization that those names we chose with loving care would not be spoken as a part of everyday life anymore. I know there will be more Nicholas' and Olivia's in the world, but these two were my Nicholas and my Olivia. (or Nicky and Livvie, if you're talking to Sabrina)

I really miss being able to talk about my twins. I always have a Sabrina story to share, but I'm not often presented with opportunities to talk about Nicholas or Olivia. I love to say their names out loud, I love to write them, and I love to think about them and the little people that they defined. I think that's why I like writing in this blog. Here is my audience to use their names as much as I want.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Enough!

There are three things that are never satisfied,
Four never say, “Enough!”:
The grave,
The barren womb,
The earth that is not satisfied with water—
And the fire never says, “Enough!" (Proverbs 30: 15-16)

My daughter Sabrina loves candy. I mean, LOVES candy. It is basically the only thing she thinks about, other than waterslides and amusement parks. Of course we enjoy giving her treats, but there comes a point when she asks for something and we give it to her, she wants two. Or if we offer two, she wants three. By then, if she doesn't get as much as she wants when she wants it she throws a fit and I get to the point where I don't want to give her anything at all because it never seems to be good enough.

God gently reminded me this weekend that the gifts of the children He has given me were an honor and a privilege, and not an entitlement. He didn't owe me anything when He gave them to me, and He doesn't owe me anything in return for the two that are with Him now. I then humbly offered deep thanks for the gift of being able to have two delightful pregnancies, and for the double honor of being able to be pregnant with twins. I remembered then that there are many women who yearn for even one successful pregnancy and I was still wanting more than what I had already been given.

It was the first time I could recall that I actually thanked God for enabling me to carry life within my body, and in doing that my soul found peace again.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day


I had always wanted a little boy who was just like his dad.

Olivia's favorite place to sleep...

Dads

Dads challenge our boundaries. While mothers want to protect and shield, fathers encourage adventure and present opportunities to try new things. The things that Corrie and Sabrina do may not always be the safest or wisest things, but they sure are fun!

Dads provide for their families at any cost. When I needed to be at the hospital to be with Nicholas, and then Olivia, Corrie not only took care of things at home, but balanced his time between work and the hospital to ensure that financial worries were not added to our burdens. He was also Sabrina's rock in the midst of all the confusion and the loss.

Dads get the things done that need to get done. When we were overwhelmed with Nicholas' death, Corrie's dad stepped in to guide us through the funeral arrangements. We were so grateful for his leadership and for taking us through those first steps of living life without our little boy. He supported us again through Olivia's arrangements too, when we were so weary and heartsick.

Dads lay down their lives for their families. When we needed my mom to help us for so many months, my dad enabled her to leave her responsibilities at home and come. While my mom was living out the heartache we were struggling with here, my dad carried it by himself at home, so that we could have my mom's care when we needed it the most.

Let's take the time to recognize the dads in our lives and acknowledge all those things they do for us that we don't even realize.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Too Many Dates

Sometimes I feel like I'm surrounded by dates. Because Nicholas and Olivia were babies, I am always reminded on the 18th of the month of how old they would have been if they were still here.

Now on top of developmental milestones that I cannot recognize anymore, I have two more dates to remind me of how long it's been since I held my children last. Today, on the 12th, I remember that Olivia went to be with Jesus 5 months ago now. Coming up on the 27th marks another month gone by without Nicholas.

I find consolation in the thought that with Sabrina, after about 1 year of age, I stopped keeping track of how many months old she was. I hope that's the same with grieving too, that at some point those dates blend in with the rhythms of all my other days and that month-by-month milestones become anniversaries.

Decisions, Decisions

I've heard it said that one should not make any major decisions in the first year of grieving. Before I was put into such a situation, I don't think I understood why a person could not continue to use logic and common sense even when they have suffered unspeakable loss.

I think I understand now.

I feel the need to explain ourselves. Not as a defense necessarily, but to provide some perspective into some of the decisions we've made that may not make sense or even seem wise. You see, when we were expecting the twins, we decided to sell our beloved VW Jetta and buy a minivan. A minivan. We were not "minivan people". We were Volkswagen people. We liked to be cramped and sporty and getting 1200km to a tank of diesel.

So here we were with this minivan, and 2 of the 3 children that we anticipated would fill it up were gone. Corrie, being the man of action that he is, promptly decided to take advantage of whatever value was left in it and trade it in for a truck. In the dark days before Olivia's death, once we realized that she was to end up in Jesus' arms with her brother Nicholas, we turned our shattered dreams toward plans of spending time together camping as a family. It's our favorite thing to do. So, we intended to buy a camper and needed a truck to pull it.

We bought our truck almost immediately after Olivia passed away. We couldn't even stand to look at the minivan; it was such a bitter reminder of all that we lost. But the truck just didn't feel right either. It was a flashy reminder of the bleak truth that you cannot put your hope in things, in items, in possessions.

Many months have passed, and we have purchased a new camper to go with our truck. Was it the wisest decision? I don't know. But what I do know is that Corrie, Sabrina, and I have a safe place to retreat and to reconnect as a family. No, we didn't have to buy a truck and a camper to make that happen, but it was what we knew at the time.

I could drive that minivan now and it would be OK. It could be a tangible reminder that we were all together here for a while. It could represent for us in reality what we are in spirit. Sometimes it's hard to look at the truck and not be grieved that we made that decision so soon; that we didn't wait for God to fill that gaping hole with what He thought was best. But most of the time I can forgive us for making a big decision in unfamiliar territory. If God can offer us that grace, then so can I.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Confession

Olivia and Nicholas' bedroom is still the same as when they were with us. The crib is made up, their toys still out, their two bouncy chairs side by side. There's diapers in the basket on the dresser.

But that's not what I'm confessing. Having their room as their room is a comfort. It means to me that they are still an ever-present part of our family.

But I still have some of Olivia's laundry in the hamper. I keep it there, unwashed, unfolded, not put away, because when I peek inside it feels like it could be just another ordinary day and my twins are not dead. It's like they're just not here right now.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Time Flies


Today marks six months since Nicholas left this earth. I can't believe how fast time goes by.

The speed at which time goes by used to concern me. Now I'm starting to see it as another one of God's mercies. The sooner we get to the end of our time on this earth, the sooner we are all together again.

But for now, I've resolved to enjoy the moments of this life as they march by. I can't think of a better way to honor my little boy's beautiful spirit.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Little Brown Bird

I saw a little brown bird the other day and it reminded me of Olivia. She had such bright eyes and soft brown hair like feathers. You just wanted to cup your hands around her and gently hold her little body close.


Jesus assured us that God sees even the little sparrow when it falls. My little brown bird is in His gentle hands now.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's Just Like Riding a Bike

Sabrina just learned to ride her bicycle without training wheels this week. As Corrie and I were teaching her how to balance and ride straight without crashing into things, our common encouragement was "Keep your head up!" or "Look ahead of you". Whenever she looked down at her feet or around her, she would wobble and start to fall.

I was struck by how true that is in grieving. Dwelling on memories or thinking about our loved ones that are gone is necessary and good, but when your main focus is not upward and ahead, you wobble and crash. This week, I wobbled too. When I was pregnant with the twins, there was another woman who worked with me who was pregnant and due at almost the same time I was. She brought her little girl into work this week and she was so bright and alert and strong and alive. She was such a representation to me of what I was missing. I was transported to a place where I should have been holding two beautiful children, one on each hip. I was overwhelmed with sorrow once again.

God is so good. After a quiet day of seeking Him I spent some time with my Sabrina. I have noticed recently that He magnifies the sweetness of the time we have together. He is able to pack all the abundance that I experienced with three children into one. As I continue to make the decision moment by moment to lay my grief at His feet and ask Him to turn it into something beautiful, He is so faithful to do just that.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Changed

I hope that it is visible that I have been changed. Profoundly changed. I'm in a place where if it is not recognizable that I've changed, then it feels like everything we have been through as a family has been in vain.

A common thread from people who are trying to empathize with me from their own experiences, or who are trying to encourage me in my choices, is to affirm me for getting back into the things I was doing before. What they don't understand is that I'm not the same person I was before. I have had my eyes opened; I have a new perspective. The things I did before have to be reconciled with who I am now before I can be "back". It is important for me that I am being true to myself in all I do. Living this life actively embracing the things that I learned from Nicholas and Olivia is my way to honor and remember them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Eternity Math

Here's some logic to ponder:

If Nicholas and Olivia's spirits have gone to be with Jesus, and His Spirit is within me, then that means that Nicholas and Olivia are with me too.

Sabrina + Nicholas & Olivia + Jesus = one complete mommy

Friday, May 16, 2008

Some Blogs to Visit

I've added links to some of my favorite blogs that I visit often. They are written by other grieving moms and I want to mention them because these women believe, as I do, that sharing memories and the things we've learned recognizes the short lives our children lived here on earth, and brings meaning to why they had to leave us so soon.

**Please don't forget to check out the link to Molly Piper's blog that I mentioned earlier. She has added more posts to her series of How to Help Your Grieving Friend. They are well-written and contain good practical advice on how to navigate any potential minefields when trying to relate to someone who is grieving. Here you can get acquainted with her daughter Felicity.

**Sumi's Corner is beautifully presented and eloquently written. I encourage you to visit and get to know her daughter Jenna.

**My friend bookworm shares with us her journey of how to live life without her daughter Tabitha at One Book After Another. I admire her honesty and her courage presented here .

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Thank you, Nicholas and Olivia, for making me a better mom.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Mom

I don't think I would have been a very easy child to raise. I was bright and inquisitive but also fiercely independent and very opinionated. I had all the answers to everything. I don't know if I really ever remember letting my mom "mother" me. Sure, I took for granted the three nutritious meals a day, the clean laundry and house, a ride wherever and whenever I needed it, but did I share my heart with her?

After Sabrina was born, my mom came to stay with us for a week. I was so glad for that. Her willing spirit and peaceful presence held our little family up that first crazy week as we were adjusting to our new life. It was the first time I can remember that I reached out to her in need emotionally as well as practically and it took our relationship to a level that, looking back, was something she may have been wanting for a long time.

When we knew we were expecting twins, we asked her to come and help "for a while". Little did we all know that a "while" would end up being six months! She came in July and we spent a week (or two?) sitting on the patio, talking about life and God and family. Once the babies arrived, she sprang into action. We three were a team, Corrie, my mom, and I. We set up shifts to ensure we were each getting enough rest and that there were always two adults around for each baby. Again, her willing spirit and peaceful presence was the glue that held us together. My mom is a woman of action - if there's something that needs to be done, it gets done! And that was such a comfort to Corrie, who is a self-confirmed neat freak. Between the two of them our house was clean, neat, and tidy, with bottles & formula always ready to go.

What I treasure most is that she committed to staying and helping us until I was ready to let her go home. She gave up everything for us - being with my dad, taking care of her own home, the job that she really enjoyed. And she still says she would do it all again.

In this day and age of fierce independence, rebellion, and selfishness, I marvel at a woman who put herself aside just to serve me and my family. Yes, I'm her daughter, and yes, I certainly did expect her to come and help for a time. I also understand that not everyone has the same life circumstances that allows for such a sacrifice. But she came, and she stayed through no sleep, Olivia's colic, her own time of intense illness, Corrie & I fighting under stress, Sabrina's acting out, and being apart from my dad. Then she came back to stay through Nicholas' illness, me living at the hospital, Nicholas' death and funeral. Then she came back to stay again through Olivia's illness, me living at the hospital again, Olivia's death and funeral. I couldn't have made it through all that without her.

But what she'll tell you is that she stayed because she enjoyed being with us and her grandchildren, and that the time she had with them is so precious that it more than made up for all the other stuff.

I guess what I'm getting at is that I think I get it. I think I'm starting to understand what a true mother-daughter relationship should look like. Now that I've seen the root of independence rearing its ugly head in Sabrina, I've been able to recognize that there were moments where I think my mom may have wondered just what to do with this kid who knew it all and didn't need anybody. She was too kind-hearted and so respectful of the boundaries I had set to push herself upon me.


One of Nicholas and Olivia's gifts was to my mom. They gave her a daughter who finally recognized her as her mother.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

You're Asking the Wrong Question

1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9:1-3, NIV)

Sabrina and I have been reading through her Bible storybook and we got to this story tonight. Later on, I was meditating about being born a particular way just to display God's glory. I realized then that we have all been born to display God's glory in some way. Even Nicholas and Olivia.

The Message puts an interesting spin on it:

1-2 Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?" 3 Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.

Jesus reminds us that we are asking the wrong questions. We need to know that we are not defined by our circumstances, but are to look toward what God can do in and through them. I love thinking about my Nicholas and Olivia being created just to display God's glory.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Grief on a Timeline

Grief isn't something that I can "overcome". I just finally realized that today. Even though I heard phrases like "it will always be with you" or "you never get over it", I really didn't believe that would be my experience. It's in my nature to achieve, to conquer, to control. To overcome. I was going to be successful in my grieving; I was going to "grieve well". Maybe I am grieving well, but that doesn't mean that I pass a test at the end of X number of months and I'm done.

I had to say out loud today that this grief journey's going to take at least a year. It was a relief to admit it. Even that is still trying to apply a timeline to something that can't be predicted, but at least I'm not living in a state of "I should be fully recovered by now..."

Little Feet

Olivia had my toes. Every time I look at my feet I'm reminded of her. She had the best little baby feet. We used to call them "marshmallows with toes." We didn't know how she would walk on those little fat feet, let alone wear shoes.

I really wanted to see her little feet mashed into sandals this summer.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some of my favorite photos

Aunty Tricia always was really good at bundling a baby...and she got lots of practice at our house!

Sabrina and her babies

Such a handsome boy...

I'm so glad that I was able to capture this...Nicholas had such a big smile...

Olivia's smile was more shy...but she had a dimple in her cheek just like me...

How cute is this? I don't know if she was too impressed with the hat, but we loved it!

Eternity

My children, Nicholas and Olivia, live in eternity. They have gone on ahead of me, and that brings me great comfort and a lot to look forward to. Their presence there has removed the apprehension I used to feel about death.

Corrie has chosen eternal life. In fact, he did so on the day Nicholas died. He knew what he needed to do to ensure that his family would be together forever. He's such a great dad.

I chose eternal life many years ago. But I hadn't started living in it until recently.

Living with an eternal perspective changes the entire way I relate to this world. This is not all there is. I do not have to worry and scurry, hustle and bustle, collect and keep, hoard and accumulate, try to get younger and richer, or sweat the small stuff. Or even the big stuff. Don't get me wrong - I am in fact human, and I do many of those things a lot of the time. But when I let God cover it with His grace, He makes all things right again. He restores my soul and resets my perspective back to an eternal one. Then I can put my priorities back into order.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Redemption

In my very first post I wrote about the gifts that Nicholas' short life and death has brought us. That and the hope that Olivia's short life and death has brought us have been the theme of my journey here.

When I got over the inital shock of hearing that we were to be blessed with twins, I was able to embrace the concept that not only was I going to get a second chance at welcoming a new baby into our family, but a third chance at the same time! I so wanted another chance. Looking back at Sabrina's birth and first few months as a baby, I've realized that I suffered from postpartum depression. This was more than the "baby blues". I was a person who was career-driven, self-centred, and had up until then very little experience with children. I would even say that I had never really been a child; I didn't play with my dolls and stuffed animals, but had preferred to read and learn instead. So take this person and place her into a situation where in order to succeed you had to give up all you were and serve this little one who had been entrusted to your care. To be honest, it was really hard, and I don't remember enjoying it much.

God slowly but surely worked on my heart in the years since. Over time, as Sabrina grew and matured, and I was able to find ways to relate to her, I enjoyed her more and more. She was so cute!


But motherhood was still an arena where I felt very inadequate. I would observe other mothers and wonder why I couldn't play and have fun with Sabrina like they could with their children. So I sought out places where I was successful, like work. But I couldn't balance my family life and my work life, because I was pulled to where I felt validated and competent. I thank God that He never gave up on my stubborn, prideful heart. As I sought to know Him better and study His Word, He gently revealed to me those areas where I needed to put Corrie and Sabrina first. He enabled me to learn how to serve them and learn how to love them the way they need to be loved. And just as my heart was starting to be turned toward my family, we discovered we were expecting twins. Which brings me back to where I started. Since I felt like I had ruined the only time I had to experience Sabrina as a baby, I was excited that I was going to be given double the opportunity to get back what I had lost.

And when we brought those twins home, my heart was in it. I enjoyed them so much; the abundance of two babies, discovering how different they were, learning what would keep them healthy and would make them content. Being able to care for both of them at the same time. As they weakened and died, one by one, my hopes of redemption died with them.

When I returned to work, I started to grieve all over again. I didn't understand why going back to a place where I was cared for and validated held so much anxiety for me. Through prayer and therapy, I was able to see that I did not want to return to being that person I had been before the twins came. God then showed me that I was grieving the reality that I could not be my own redeemer. There was nothing I could do to fix my mistakes, to replace what I had lost. The hope came when He reminded me that Jesus came and died so that He could be my Redeemer. His sacrifice has covered all those lost and wasted opportunities. He has promised us in His Word that He will restore "what the locust has eaten" (Joel 2:25), and that means that in Christ I can have a fresh start. What a precious gift!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Technical Difficulties

My apologies! I was just notified today that the movies of Nicholas and Olivia were unavailable to be viewed. I've since figured out what the problem was and you should be able to view them now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nicholas Talks


His sounds were so precious, we treasured every one.

Olivia Talks


She always did have a lot to say.

Walking in the Valley

I've heard it mentioned more than once since entering into mourning that those who grieve go through cycles, rather than one large process where you emerge whole and healed at the end. That makes a lot of sense, since as time passes we perceive things differently as the lens through which we view them changes.

Right in the beginning, when without a doubt that grieving was far too big for me to manage on my own, that's when I was able to cast my cares upon God and His grace was ever-present. People would ask me how I was doing, and I would reply that I was "fine" or "carried by God's grace". It was all so fresh that support was visible and all around us. We saw how much God loved us every day through those that served us and cared for our hurting family. I was amazed at the revelation that He would indeed carry our sorrows if we offered them up to Him to take.

As time has gone by, and the loss isn't as raw, bit by bit I've started to take my burden back from God's big shoulders. And it nearly overwhelmed me. Friends, those of you who do not know Christ as your Saviour, how do you do it? How do you live life without Jesus? Now that I've seen both worlds, the natural one and the Kingdom, I don't ever want to go back to living in the natural. Living in my natural instincts, my natural independent streak, a personality and heart not yielded to something better than myself. Yes, I stumble, I make mistakes, I carry things I was never meant to carry. But I know that the saving grace of God will cover those things and that brings me hope.

This grief cycle has brought me from a place of leaning on God and people, to trying to manage on my own and fighting against having to grieve, to back to accepting where I am at and resting in the promise that God will make something beautiful out of my pain. Knowing myself as I do, that as the lens of my circumstances changes again, I will enter into another grief cycle. But each time I go back to walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I know He is with me and I don't have to fear anything. He will protect me and guide me. (Psalm 23)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Good Things

It was a beautiful spring day in Winnipeg today. The sunlight floods into my house and fills every corner on a day like this. I love my house, and I thank God for it often - we moved here in a hurry last June in order to accomodate the arrival of our twins.

I celebrated my 33rd birthday here last night with good friends. Good people, and I thank God for them too - I don't know what we would have done without their love and support.

Sabrina and I went for a walk today and we tried out her new scooter. And I listened to her talk the whole way. I hope she never stops telling me things and asking me questions.

We went out for a drive as a family this afternoon and I listened to Corrie share his heart while Sabrina sang to herself in the backseat. Then we stopped at our favorite place in Lockport and ate yummy greasy food together in the truck. What could be better than that?

God is so good - He doesn't let me grieve all the time.

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
(Psalm 103: 1-5)

Tears and Faith

Again, another great quote from an inspired writer in the blogosphere...

"During those couple very tearful days, I read a page in the One Year Book of Hope (Nancy Guthrie) that encouraged me greatly. (Thank you Susan!) I know that tears are good, that God is loving me as I cry... but sometimes I feel weak and lacking in faith. This second day in the Brokenhearted section was wonderful.

Along with relief (of crying), there is also the uncomfortable loss of control that is a companion to tears, isn't there? Some see tears not only as a loss of control but also as a lack of faith. It is as if the physical manifestation of tears gives evidence of a spiritual deficiency- that if our faith was big enough or deep enough or developed enough, we simply wouldn't be this sad. It is as if we think our grasp of spiritual realities can erase the hurts of being human. But when you've lost something or someone who is valuable to you, when you have been forced to let go of a dream or live within a nightmare- that is something to be sad about. So let yourself be sad. ...

Thank you Lord, for keeping track of my sorrows (Psalm 56:8) and for filling me up when I feel so low. Thank you for those wonderful relationships that you have blessed me with and for using many different people to fulfill the needs in my life at this time! I love you Lord Jesus and praise you... for the good days that remind me of your peace, and for the bad days that remind me of your grace. Please gently remind me each day as I seek you, that your grace truly is enough. I pray that you continue to bless us and that you will steadily bring new life to this family."

I definitely couldn't have said it better myself...

Off Comes the Mask

We live in a "feel-good" culture. If we feel sad, anxious, or depressed, there's a pill for it. We have built an expectation that illness and death are inconveniences that can be conquered by modern medicine. We think material things will make us happy, and we buy them whenever we want, even if we don't have the money.

Grief does not fit in to a "feel-good" culture. So many of the writers of blogs I've visited that are writing about grief and loss express that they struggle to be normal; that they want to be normal women. And it struck me this morning - how did we become a society that couldn't accomodate grief and loss? How did we get to a point where we have rejected the half of ourselves that feels pain and called that normal? We have tried to remove ourselves so far from it that we don't know how to relate to those that can't.

Up until now, I've been the kind of person that could conquer anything by force of will. Even negative emotions. And I couldn't understand those who weren't able to live the same way. Now I'm finally up against something bigger than my will can conquer. I'm no longer capable of "managing" my emotions to appear as someone who is worthy. And to that I say, Thank God! It's been painful, but I've been forced to tear off the mask, the one that I've been wearing for so long I didn't know it was there. What's underneath feels raw and exposed. Vulnerable.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How to Help Your Grieving Friend

Through my travels in the blogosphere, I have discovered a very eloquent series of blog posts called "How to Help your Grieving Friend". It was written by a woman whose child was born silently just days before her due date.

I know that I am not alone - but it is good to read something that someone else has written and think "yes, that's how I feel, too..."

Monday, March 31, 2008

Tough Slogging

I thought that if I did my grief work like a good girl that I would move through it faster. Sheesh.


Turns out that if you do your grief work like a good girl, and not stuff it way down with all the other stuff down there, you have to work through the stuff down there too. Double sheesh.

Then not only are you grieving for the loss of your children, but for who you were, what you did when you were who you were, and what you were supposed to be but aren't yet.

Clear as mud?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Epilogue

Wikipedia defines an epilogue as "a piece of writing at the end of a work of literature or drama, usually used to bring closure to the work."

The last time I wrote about our testimony, I left off at Olivia's death. But our story doesn't end there. Since then there an outpouring of love has continued to grace our family. We have received generous gifts of financial support, gifts of prayer and emotional support, gifts of time with family and friends.

Where does the "closure to the work" come? That's where we struggle. How do you close a work as precious as new life? Where does the story come to a natural end? In the book of Matthew, Jesus said

"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved."

That's how I feel. Like new wine. I have been ripped from the vine, crushed, pressed, and left to ferment. And the old life, the one before our twins, doesn't seem to fit right anymore. I guess the epilogue to my testimony is that I wait expectantly for new wineskins.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jesus Wept

I've been reading through Philip Yancey's Where is God When it Hurts? He's one of my favorite authors, and this book is a sensitive and respectful investigation of suffering and where God is in the midst of it.

He uses a quote that really struck a chord with me and I would like to share it with you. It's by Dorothy Sayers and I think it is timely considering we have just come through Easter and its contemplation of Christ's great sacrifice.

For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is--limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death--He had the honesty and courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.

For a long time, I had a hard time understanding what Jesus' role really was on the earth. He was fully God and fully man and I was stuck on the fully God part. I assumed that since He was God, that things did not really affect Him, that he couldn't have really suffered. That was a lie, and thank God He set me free from it. Jesus was fully human - He was tempted and tested, He had the full range of human emotions and was He subject to living in a limited physical body. He laughed, He got angry, He felt frustration, and He cried. I received a lot more comfort from Jesus after I stumbled upon some verses where He was talking about what He knew He had to do, and that He didn't want to do it. This revelation came at the time where I had to come to terms with having to give my children back to the Father and I didn't want to do it. I could finally relate to Jesus, and when I could relate to Jesus, I found I could relate to the Father. I discovered that I did not walk this road alone - Someone had already gone before me and prepared the way.

One of the most comforting verses in the Bible comes back to me time and again: "Jesus wept." Not only does He weep with us in our times of sorrow, but I think He weeps for us too. I think sometimes He weeps because we could experience deep comfort from Him if we would only draw near and lay down those things we think we need to carry on our own.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Together Still

At Easter dinner with my family the absence of Nicholas and Olivia was a sorrow that I think we all felt but were reluctant to acknowledge in the midst of what is supposed to be a time of celebration.

Thank God for Sabrina. She prepared for Easter dinner as the party it should be. She wanted streamers and hats and decorations and cake and balloons. Being the precious only surviving child she is, we usually indulge her in these kinds of things. OK, we didn't have streamers and party hats and decorations but we did have cake and balloons. Sabrina wanted to let the balloons go for Nicholas and Olivia to have. It was an idea from her grandma in Kelowna so she could connect with her brother and sister at their funerals. And now I think it's going to become a ritual of our family celebrations.

We let go 5 brightly colored balloons on that beautiful Spring evening. And do you know what? Those balloons all floated away together. They stayed together and played together in a bunch until we couldn't see them anymore.

We are all together still.