Saturday, December 19, 2009

Now Therefore, Arise

Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Joshua 1:2

I love listening to Joyce Meyer teach the Word. She has a way of presenting truth with a refreshing directness and clarity that makes you take notice of the things you need to bring before the Lord to change in your life. Recently I have been making my way through a teaching series of hers based on the redemptive names of God.

In learning about Jehovah Nissi, "the Lord is my Banner", her teaching had led to sharing the message from the Lord that there are things in our lives we have been grieving and mourning over too long. And that in the Old Testament the Lord had even gone to the detail of determining how long mourning periods should be for us. He allowed the Israelites to grieve Moses for a month before appearing to Joshua and telling him essentially to move on.

My first reaction was to be offended. She has never lost a child - has 4 successful children in fact - and would have no idea what it is like to lose one. But her statement intrigued me and I resolved to research it out for myself, because I had always seen statements in the Bible where God comforts those who mourn.

What I have been learning is that the word for mourn in Hebrew really referred to a specific time period of mourning, where rituals and observances would be followed. You would be allowed to openly and publicly mourn for a time, and then when that period was done, would be expected to recognize that God is sovereign and seek Him for what was next in your life. In the Psalms, David expressed grief as well, but at the same time he implored his soul to seek the Lord to determine why he was so downcast.

The longer I meditated on these things, the better I felt. God doesn't expect me to mourn forever, the world does. And in being pulled back into it time and time again is exhausting, and denies the truth that God who is sovereign, is good. Trying to fight something that cannot be changed is fighting a losing battle.

Before you get offended yourselves or start writing me to tell me it's OK to grieve, let me reassure you that missing my children and feeling sadness over their loss is different than allowing a spirit of grief to take over my heart and mind. And maybe if our society actually had some mourning rituals and gave time and space and support to those who mourn, maybe they wouldn't need to hold on to the mourning for as long as they do. Regardless, my heart has been lightened by the thought that mourning could actually be set aside and that I could take the step into the next chapter of my life.

(Jordan River photo credit Ivan Makarov)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Life!

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
John 10:10

Months ago, as I was seeking God in prayer for what was next for our family, my attention was directed toward this piece of Scripture. The word life jumped out at me and the first thing I thought about was how the Greek word for life was zoe. A glimmer of hope started to glow in my heart as I thought about the possibility of having another child, one who could bring us to life again.

We had been wrestling with an undefined restlessness, a need for change, a burning desire to break out of the comfort zone we had made of our lives and did not know what to do next. If we did not take a step forward in faith, then we were not going to do anything at all. And we could not live that way anymore.

And now, we await the arrival of our little girl. Our Zoe Grace. We do not know what her destiny is, but we do know that the decision to welcome her into our family, no matter what, has brought us life! and life abundant!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Advent

I was finally able to admit today that I am still struggling. I'm finding the Christmas season overwhelming and I'm facing a lot of pressures at work. I'm longing for some quiet peaceful space to offer up my broken heart yet again to my Saviour.

"He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted..."

Out of curiosity I looked back to see what I wrote about this time last year. I was not surprised to see that I'm feeling the same way now that I did then. I'm learning that it may just come with the territory.

"A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices..."

The Advent season is about preparing your heart for the coming Saviour. I used to think it was more about fixing what was wrong about myself so I would be presentable for His arrival. I realize now it's about recognizing what it is in my heart that needs to be fixed by Him.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Each Day

With another little one on the way, I've been looking forward to maternity leave and spending time at home being able to care for my family without having to divide my time and energy.

I think back to how hard it was for me to transition into motherhood. I was actually eager to go back to work and had a really good home daycare situation for Sabrina. By the time the twins came along, I had done a lot of growing and changing and truly enjoyed having two babies to care for. I knew I would have to go back to work, but with two infants, I anticipated an easier transition with a nanny situation. Going back to work after grieving for a few months was really hard because I loved being at home so much. I also felt like I was right back where I started.

And so I have struggled between fulfilling work, awesome coworkers, and wanting to make sure I give the best of my time and energy to my family. How will I leave this little one in daycare this time? I am not the person I was seven years ago when I faced the same situation.

As I was pondering on whether I would miss out on too much by going back to work, I heard a gentle reminder in my heart that each day with my children is precious, no matter how old they are. I enjoy Sabrina more and more as she grows up and as our relationship becomes deeper and richer. What God has reminded me is to make the best of each day because there is no phase of my children's lives that is more important than the other. At 3 months, 3 years, 33 years, and beyond, I hope and pray to have deep relationship with each one of them.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Remembering Nicholas

It's been 2 years now since we spent a quiet afternoon with our little boy as he drew his final breaths. I am comforted by the fact that our circle is unbroken - that he remains in our hearts and we will be united again one day - but I miss him deeply.

He is the little boy of my heart. The one who looks like his dad, the man of my heart. Nicholas, my victory, my son, our family just isn't complete without you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Comforted by Isaiah 61

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

I wasn't sure what to expect with this upcoming 2nd year anniversary. To my surprise, it was an emotional roller coaster, alternating between exhaustion and depression and bursts of goodness. I was surprised because I thought it had been 2 years already...hadn't I already worked through this stuff?

OK, if I heard another grieving mother say it I would think she was nuts. But I'm a recovering perfectionist with unrealistic expectations that are gradually being brought into my new reality. So, instead of falling back on my old tendencies to fight the grieving, I treated myself gently this week. I told people I was struggling. I took time off work. I didn't make an effort if I didn't have the energy.

Isaiah 61 reminds us that Christ came to comfort those who mourn. It was actually the only thing that was repeated many times throughout the passage. That God would make a special effort to send Someone specifically to comfort me in my loss and to give me beauty for my ashes, a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, and the oil of joy for my mourning tells me that it is not something to be "gotten over" or "moved on" from, but something that is treated with honor, gentleness, and infinite love.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Living Death

Have you ever had your perspective opened up to the point where you could see that the circumstances of your life were spun and crafted around bringing you to the place where you are right now?

I was drifting before Nicholas & Olivia entered my life. I worked, spent time with family and friends, cared for my home. No real goals, no big dreams, nothing bigger than myself other than the occasional life situation that was hard to handle. We decided to get pregnant again around Sabrina's 4th birthday, realizing that she needed a sibling and none of us were getting any younger. There was no burning desire to have lots of children. That would have disrupted my inertia.

With the news of twins on the way, my life got turned upside down. This was something way bigger than I could handle. Here I first learned about reaching out to others for help. I never needed to before. I was more than capable to accomplish what I needed to, or I just didn't do it.

With the news of terminal illness threatening to take my children, my upside-down life imploded. The only thing I could do was ride on God's grace and the support of others. Grieving brought out things in me I never knew were there. Things that have held me down and held me back for a long time. I faced insecurity, fear of rejection, perfectionism, and the realization that while I knew of Christ and leaned on Him, I never really knew His love.

God has been working in my life in amazing ways over the last few years, and He has opened my perspective to as much as I can handle to see how He has brought me to this point. I had a revelation on Friday morning that I can hardly explain, that reminded me that because I opened my heart up to love my children, they will always be with me in a way that will never be unbroken. And where love is, God is, because God is love. Opening my heart up to risk loving others, even if the cost is pain and brokenness, has brought me to such a place of incredible hope.

At 34 years of age, I realized I have not a single big goal, dream, or vision for my life. I don't know if I've been too afraid to try for fear of failing, but I do know now that self-protecting is a living death. God's Word reminds us that "without a vision, the people perish." Living a half-life, fearful of getting hurt, gets you exactly what you expect. Less than a full life.

And Jesus came so we would have Life! and Life Abundant! Is your life an abundant life? Or are you worshiping at the feet of Safety, weary from protecting yourself from getting hurt? Wondering if this is all there is? If there is one thing I have learned it's that if you're going to get hurt, preparing yourself ahead of time for it never makes it any easier to bear. And you're only robbing yourself of all the life you could experience in the meantime.

I have decided that I will not prepare myself for the worst, because I have realized that I don't really know what the worst is. It is also not within my ability to protect myself. That's what I have a Protector for. He has enabled me to love all my children with all my heart and trust Him that His Word is true. I am ready to step out and live Life! the way He meant it to be.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thanksgiving

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:18

I've thought a lot about this verse over the last couple of years. Sometimes with incredulity ("how can I give thanks for this?"), sometimes in obedience ("I will give thanks because I choose to"), sometimes with submission ("because You are good and I believe in Your word, I will give thanks"), and sometimes with heartfelt gratitude.

Look at the wording of the verse. Giving thanks is not an option. It is the very will of God for those who claim to follow Christ. Because it is God's will, I believe that thanksgiving is therefore something that is beneficial for us.

Sometimes during worship, a song comes up that was part of one of the twins' memorial services. I love hearing those songs now because while we were walking through our "valley of the shadow of death" something rose up in me that defiantly chose to worship the Lord and give thanks even while everything looked its worst. I love to remember how God led me to fight back the despair and darkness with thanksgiving and how much power there was in choosing to praise instead of curse. Even the remembering is powerful.

On Thanksgiving we look around at what we have and are grateful. We remember to give thanks for our many blessings, share abundant meals together, and enjoy family traditions. How many of us have looked at the dark things in our life today and asked God for the strength to thank Him in those things too?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Set Free

God spoke to me through a good friend the other day. I had been agonizing over what to do with the upcoming 2nd annversary of Nicholas' death. We spent last year's 1st anniversary quietly together, also not knowing what to do then.

What complicated it this year is that we are also planning a family trip with other family friends scheduled to start that day and into the weekend. Would we be disrespectful or irreverent or selfish by having fun together on a day that represents something so hard?

As I was trying to sort through my uncertainty about it all, she broke through with straightforward honesty and set me free. If you wanted to celebrate a person, wouldn't you choose something like their birthday? Why would you want to focus on the day they died? There's a difference to giving space to the energy that comes with the hard things that we went through when we had to say goodbye, and to trying to do right by making a monument out of the day.

I realized I was trying to do the "right thing" and by putting myself under that pressure was not giving myself the freedom to process the feelings around that day in whatever way was best. It is not wrong or selfish to spend time as a family together. Celebrating our family in the face of remembering our hard times is what makes us stronger.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Shrapnel

Since I wrote my last post, I've been thinking about shrapnel. About the process by which the human body heals itself from penetrating trauma by slowly and surely bringing the shrapnel to the surface so it can be released.

Instead of jagged pieces of metal and glass, I'm carrying around pieces of a different kind. A broken heart. Shattered dreams. Crushed expectations. And while I live and breathe and work and play and function, it still takes me by surprise when some of these jagged pieces work their way to the surface. I should know better by now.

I remind myself that this is part of the healing process and my wound was not a clean wound. It is one that will take time to heal.

If you're familar with the movie Ironman, you'll remember he had to have a magnetic device implanted in his heart in order to repel the shrapnel in his body that threatened to pierce his heart and kill him. I'm thankful that I don't have to depend on anything that is within my ability to create to protect my heart. My Healer is orchestrating my healing process and knows exactly what I need to ensure the jagged pieces of my wound work their way out instead of in.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Colored With Grief

I don't know why I get so annoyed with grieving. I told a friend today that if anyone else who had been in my situation expected to not experience lifelong effects of grief I would think they were crazy.

What I'm more annoyed with is everything now is colored with it. I've been very emotional lately and if I hadn't been through losing the twins I would have chalked it up to pregnancy hormones and laughed it off. But there's always the question of whether it is something more. Am I headed for another griefburst? Is there something that I'm not in touch with that needs to be released?

For me, grieving is not a continual ache or agony. It is a wistful longing, interspersed with storms of emotional release. It is long periods of peace punctuated with confusion and anger. It's the dark clouds appearing on the horizon just when I'm starting to think it's been quite a while since I've seen them. It's understandable that this pregnancy is going to be emotional. I just wish it didn't need to be colored with grief too.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How Do You Decide?

When we were fresh from losing Nicholas & Olivia, we had genetic counselling. We wanted to know if there was any way to conceive a child free of SMA. A complicated, expensive option told to us at the time was the possibility of creating fertilized embryos, and pre-testing them to determine which ones were "healthy" and which ones were "sick".

The question I couldn't answer was, what do we do with the "sick" ones? Each of them would be the beginning of a child that we created. Destroy them? Leave them in storage indefinitely? We could not go ahead with a procedure that created such a dilemma. [For those readers who have contemplated or gone through with this procedure, please read no judgment into our thought process. This is our personal journey and each couple in this situation faces their own unique way of making this decision.]

Time passed and the decision to try again lay dormant, resurrected from time to time by each of us in turn (usually when the other wasn't ready). What finally started to turn things for me was taking part in the Children's Hospital radiothon earlier this year. None of those parents would have chosen the path that they had been put on, but once on those paths, they would not have traded the experiences they had with their exceptional children for anything. I began to wonder what "healthy" and "sick" really meant, and whether we as a society have the right perspective in seeking perfection when it comes to our children.

I came to the realization that just as we could not make the choice between our "healthy" embryos and our "sick" embryos (they were all our children to us), we could no longer hold back a choice between conceiving a "healthy" child and a "sick" child. We had to lay down our fear and put aside the condition that we would only try again if we knew the outcome would be what we wanted. If we were able to predict the outcome that we wanted each time, would we have chosen to conceive Nicholas and Olivia? It's a scary thought.

Do you ever wonder what you may have missed out on because you were too afraid to try? I don't want to live like that. Because of God's amazing grace, I know He will lead us with infinite wisdom and extravagant love. He has promised good things for our family.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It's OK to Ask

Could it happen again?

Yes. It could.

Will you know ahead of time?

Probably not. We have decided that testing for SMA ahead of time is too risky to the pregnancy and will not change anything anyway. The decision to welcome another child into our family took the risk of SMA into consideration. We actually have a 75% chance of having a healthy child. We will test our baby at birth so that if SMA is an issue we can ensure the best quality of life that we can.

Wow, you're brave.

It is actually pretty exciting to toss caution aside and follow your heart. But I think that anyone who decides to welcome a child into their family is brave. You never know what can happen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

mom_of_4

Well, if you haven't noticed by now, I've changed my username from mom_of_3 to mom_of_4. Yes, we are expecting another child to join our family, around the end of March.

We are very excited and hopeful and continue to believe that God has good things in store for our family. It is quite exhilarating to take this step of faith and open our hearts to get to know another beautiful new life!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Beautiful Story

This clip is about a family whose son was diagnosed with Trisomy 13 in utero, which meant that he would not live long after birth. It is a beautiful story to watch, but not for the faint of heart...


I still find it amazing that such hard things can be so beautiful.
I know. I lived it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Petition to Cure SMA

I was introduced to a petition to cure SMA on Georgia's Journey a while back. I didn't sign it right away. I don't know why.

I've avoided most things SMA. We've focused on other things, namely the Children's Hospital, and our own healing. I don't visit SMA sites very often, and am not a member of any SMA organization.

I think it overwhelms me. Those things that are too big for me to fix or wrap my head around, I tend to put aside. I was so totally blindsided by SMA and its unstoppable destruction that once Nicholas & Olivia passed away I wanted no more of it. There was nothing I could do about it anyway, right?

Well, that's exactly the defeatist attitude that never gets anything done about anything. So I'm grateful for the fight that Georgia's mom has put up against SMA and today I joined in. I signed the petition, and I would like to encourage you to do so as well:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Thing Worse Than Death?

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
I've had a stumbling block in my faith journey lately. I've really wanted to embrace with my heart and not just my mind that God is a loving God who has a good plan for me.

But I keep coming back to "You allowed my children to die."

I believe the truth of the Bible. I have seen redemption and provision and lovingkindness in my life. I have seen God move powerfully in myself and the people around me. I do not doubt that God exists and that He is active and sovereign in our world. I believe He is a good God who does not change and works miracles even today.

But He let my children die.

So I've been struggling with how to reconcile these things. To me, they are mutually exclusive. I've been going round and round in circles on this and then lay it aside for a while, trusting there's a good answer somewhere.

And then during worship at church last night, we sang the wonderful old hymn "How Great Thou Art." When we got to the verse I quoted above, my question was answered. Not with the answer I wanted, but an answer nonetheless: I let my Son die too.

Yes, I've heard it before, and read it before, but it never sank in until last night. I was raised in Christianity and the idea of Jesus going to the cross to die has been a concept that I have really taken for granted up until now. After all, He was God, right? It somehow didn't seem to me that it would be that hard because He was divine, the Son of God. Then I read The Shack recently and the concept of Jesus being fully human and fully divine was blown wide open for me. He was fully human, just as we are and beloved by God because of the perfect, intimate, nature of their relationship.

And He let Him die, too. I can relate to that.

Maybe I need a new concept of what death means. As a human, just before His execution, Jesus agonized over the death He was going to face. Not because of the torturous way he was going to die, but because of the separation from His Father He would have to endure. Maybe there is a thing worse than death. Maybe it's living separate from God.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Something to Think About

I discovered up this wonderful story at Georgia's Journey, a blog dedicated to a sweet little girl who is missed very much.

The Brave Little Soul
By: John Alessi

Not too long ago in Heaven there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. He especially enjoyed the love he saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day however the little soul was sad, for on this day he saw suffering in the world. He approached God and sadly asked, "Why do bad things happen; why is there suffering in the world?" God paused for a moment and replied, "Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in people's hearts." The little soul was confused. "What do you mean," he asked. God replied, "Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone." The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued, "The suffering soul unlocks the love in people's hearts much like the sun and the rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely, because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this - it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer - to unlock this love - to create this miracle for the good of all humanity."

Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain himself. With his wings fluttering, bouncing up and down, the little soul excitedly replied. "I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into the world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people's hearts! I want to create that miracle!" God smiled and said, "You are a brave soul I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. They have already chosen a name for you". God and the brave soul shared a smile, and then embraced.In parting, God said, "Do not forget little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength. And if the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed."

Thus at that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through his suffering and God's strength, he unlocked the goodness and love in people's hearts. For so many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy found time. Many began new spiritual journeys, some regained lost faith - many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place. The miracle had happened. God was pleased.

Monday, July 20, 2009

From Gramma Ella:

Dear Nicholas & Olivia,

The joy I felt the first time I saw you and held you for the first time, cannot be put into words. Those months I spent taking care of you both were happy and hectic times. I will always treasure that time in my heart because I got to know two beautiful little lives in a way that most grandparents don't. You also changed my life forever. Nicholas, you will always be, 'my little Puddin' and Olivia, 'my little Peach'. I remember you every day. Even though this is a little late, I remembered you and wished you a "Happy Birthday" and blew you each a kiss. You are my little angels in heaven.

Love always, Gramma of 3

July 20, 2009 11:29 AM

Sunday, July 19, 2009

**update 07/22/09 - apparently this email address has started to be spammed so I am removing the option to post by email. Thanks so much to those who took the time to honor Nicholas and Olivia in this way**

I just wanted to let you know, if you were still interested, that I will leave the option open for a while to send a post to this blog by email to the address clschouten.nicholasgift@blogger.com

A big thank you for those who have posted and commented! It really means a lot to me.

(For those of you who are not sure what it means to send an email post, if you send an email to the above address, the email you send becomes a post on the blog, with the title of the email becoming the title of the post, and whatever you write in the body shows as the blog post. Your email address does not get displayed anywhere.)

From Gramma Lesley:

2Years have passed and still the Joy of your arrival is so alive in my heart .. i could hardly wait to meet you , hold you, and kiss your little faces and hold your little hands. i remember going shopping and everywhere i went i thought "i have to get that for the babies" i remember thinking how it would look .. you running on the beach .. full of sand .laughing and playing in the water.. i remember thinking how i could read you stories and let you Jump on my bed .. how i could make funny faces and make up funny words and listen to you giggle .. i remember thinking how i could sneek in atnight and just sit by the beds and watch you sleep and sing to you ..Yes my heart is hurting and Yes i Miss you more than i have ever missed anything in my life, but im so THANKFUL that you came to us even for a shorttime . My precios ones you gave us so much , and left us with so much , that my Heart can only be filled with Joy today as i celebrate your birthday today.I know that you are beeing cellebrated in Heaven with the Love of Jesus today and i can only imagine what a party that is.So today i have a big smile on my face and a heart full of love ,and that is my gift to you . Love Always Gramma and your aunte Muggiexxxxooo♥♥♥♥♥
July 18, 2009 6:29 PM

Happy Birthday

It amazes me to think about how much you have both impacted my life.  Nicholas I never met you and Olivia we only met once.  I remember your Mom and I had such great plans for visits and having an extra set of arms to hold a baby.  That never really happened and I miss that...  odd to think you can miss something that never actually happened.
 
I know that I have found a depth of faith and courage that I never had before.  I have learned I can do things and face things I never thought I could.  I know it is not my strength that moved me but God strength moving so many people around your parents to make sure they were supported while they cared for you here and when you went to heaven.
 
I think about you often and sometimes I don't understand what God's plan was.  Even all of the good I saw doesn't seem to make up for what you, your parents, and your sister went through.  Yet nothing makes sense if I don't believe that God works in everything for the good.  And I take comfort in the fact that from where you both are right now, all those questions must seem irrelevant.
 
Misty

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dear Nicholas and Olivia,

Your 2nd birthday has been a good day. I love to think about what life would have been like if you were here. I see overalls and sundresses, little feet in sandals, blond and brown heads bent over toys. I see Sabrina holding each one of you by the hand as we go places together. I see round cheeks and bright blue eyes. I see sisters that are the spitting image of each other, and a little boy who looks just like his dad. I see bouncing on the trampoline, sharing popsicles on a hot day, and playing at the park.

I believe those dreams are not dead. I believe that God has started a good work in our family and He will complete it, whatever it looks like.

I thank God for the 2 years (plus 39 weeks) that you have been in my life. Whether you're here physically or not, you have both given me so much! You have brought me joy. You have set me free. You have changed my heart forever.

Happy birthday little ones! I can only imagine what a birthday party in Heaven would look like.

Love and kisses,
Mom

From Aunty Tricia:

I can't beleive that they would be 2 tomorrow, as happy as I am to remember that day and all the wonderful things we did with them in the short time we had to spend with them, this day also makes me sad. I as well as uncle Jeff like to think of all the fun things we could be doing with Sabrina, Nicholas and Olivia. The summer time when Sabrina spends time in Neepawa how crazy fun that would be with 2 year old twins chasing around Jake and keeping Uncle Jeff from sitting down.
Not a day goes by without thinking about them, how much we miss and love them. They changed all of our lives and made us all better people in there short life. We miss them so much and I hope by making our monthly donation to the Childrens Hospital and our annual family christmas and birthday gifts that also go the the childrens hospital we keep there memory alive.
We will celebrate in our heart all day tomorrow. We Love and Miss you both so much Baby Nicholas and Little Livvie.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Birthday Wishes

I think of you and the twins often and am sending warm wishes to you on thier birthday.  I'm sure they are going to have a little party in the clouds, perhaps that is why the sun is finally going to shine again!
 
Sherri

Hi.

Lisa,
 
I'm so sorry you're hurting so much.  I wish there was some way I could help ease your pain.  Just want to let you know that I'm thinking of you.  You are the strongest person I have ever met. 
 
Cara


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Birthday Greetings

Ok. In my discomfort with grieving and the grieving process and what to do to celebrate a birthday of twins who are no longer with us, I didn't really leave room for friends and family to do anything to remember Nicholas & Olivia's birthday either.

So, I am opening up my blog to allow posts from emails, meaning that if you email a note or picture to clschouten.nicholasgift@blogger.com it will be posted here. I would like to encourage anyone who would like to remember Nicholas & Olivia on their 2nd birthday or who have any kind of message for them or our family to email a post anytime now until Sunday night.

Because I know very few people who have been in the same situation, I let the loneliness take over sometimes and forget that Nicholas & Olivia are remembered by many. But each time I look at the memorial stone that was given to us on their 1st birthday, I am comforted by the reminder that we are not alone:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A New Blog?

I think I've launched a new blog. It's been forming for a while, created a few months ago but not worked on much, and today, I think it's finally ready to go. Or, I'm finally ready to get going on it.

It's not meant to replace this blog. Nicholas' Gift, Olivia's Hope has its own unique place and purpose in my life, and I've tried to say that it is done, but it just isn't done yet. (Misty, that one's for you...)

What I've needed is a place to sort out all the new things I've been learning about around homemaking, cooking, parenting, and living a healthy lifestyle. I believe that these changes in me and the way I want to life my life are a direct result of the journey I have gone through with Nicholas & Olivia and I need to share them in the same way I needed to share my grief journey.

I'll leave the exploring up to you. For those of you who know me, you won't be surprised. For those of you who don't know me, consider it a way to get to know me better. Enjoy! It's called mom_of_3 at home and the link is in my blog list below.

A Most Blessed Day

My twins would have turned two this Saturday. It's already been about a year and a half since they passed away. I'm finding that the farther out on this grief journey I go, the more acceptance I live in for the way things are now.

This birthday is awkward for me. As their mother, I want to remember them on their special day, the day they share with their dad. I want to celebrate their entrance into the world.

But a birthday party just doesn't feel right this year. And I've decided that's OK. What we are doing, is buying them some birthday presents and bringing them to our friends at the Children's Hospital. This is a comforting ritual we started with their first birthday. And we're asking Sabrina what else we should do. As their big sister, I'm sure she'll come up with some good ideas.

So, for those of you who have been wondering, we are going to be celebrating a most blessed day. It may just not be in the way that you expect.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Healing

A piece of my heart was healed yesterday. I know this to be true. I've been seeking God in prayer for a while, sometimes from a dark place, sometimes from a gray place, sometimes from a bright place. Maybe more shades of gray than anything, lately. I don't know what He's been working out in me, but I do know from experience that if I go along with it and try not to perfect it myself that I will emerge changed yet again.

This time, as I was doing something mundane like brushing my teeth, my mind was wandering to places of anxiety and uncertainty, doing the "what if's", and a small Voice broke through my thoughts. There was someone who could help me.

My mother-in-law. I could let her help me this time. And a piece of my heart was healed of an unexplainable anxiety I have carried for a long time. You see, Corrie's mom and I have always gotten along well, mostly because of her big heart. She and I are opposites in so many ways. She's generous, free-spirited, open, and FUN! She will drop everything to play with a child, will always be having someone in the neighborhood over for dinner or coffee, and would give the last of anything she had to help someone in need. She will usually know the life story of anyone she meets, because she cares to hear it.

I think on some level I have been uncomfortably aware of my own emotional poverty when I have been around her, and I have been afraid to learn from her or receive from her because it would have exposed all the things I'm not. Or all the things I wasn't before Nicholas and Olivia came along. When we had the twins, I asked my mom to help because she was my safe place. She knew me, really knew what I could be like, and still loved me. I wasn't in a place where I could have received help from Corrie's mom, and I didn't know why at the time, but I know now that it was linked to a place in my heart I didn't even recognize needed to be healed.

I'm grieved as I write this that I did not provide the opportunities to open up her grandkid's lives to her in the way I should have. And as my mind was wandering to a "what if we were ever to have twins again..." scenario (just because that's where my mind wandered), the Spirit touched that broken place in my heart and filled me with joy at the thought that if I needed anything she would be there for me. That I no longer was under the bondage of not being found worthy. She has never held that over me. I held it over myself.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What if...

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"
Matthew West, The Motions

I don't know everything. I don't have all the answers. I can't predict the future outcome of my choices. I really don't have much control over what happens to me or my family.

What if I came to the conclusion that I do not have the right perspective to be making the big decisions and leaned instead on the infinite wisdom of the Creator?

Sounds kinda crazy, by the world's standards.

But really, what else is there to put my trust in? Myself? Hardly. Other people? There just as beautifully flawed as I am. Society? Umm, no. The "experts"? Hey, I'm at the age where I've realized the experts are people like me who have read a few more books than I have. (ok, maybe not quite, but... )

I like the question posed in the song lyric above. What if I could give everything, instead of just living my life, "safe" in the small world of what I know? I was watching some Michael Jackson clips recently, and pondering what it was about him that generated such an emotional response when he performed. It was because he gave everything he had to his fans. He held nothing back. There's something about people who live their lives like that, that bring out a longing in our spirits, a yearning for being able to shed those fears that hold us back and live. Really live.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I was thinking about how my life feels more complicated than it probably is, and as I was lifting it up (again, for what must be the millionth time) to the Lord the phrase "unforced rhythms of grace" came to mind.

That's the title of my good friend Misty's blog, and if I was able to post to it, I would have written a post to her blog today about how great that phrase is. This is the introduction to her blog, and I love how it's written:

Have you ever met someone for whom kindness and faith seem natural? I know it may not actually be effortless for them, in fact I know it isn’t. But there is a difference between moving forward and pushing forward. I want to be the kind of woman who lives in unforced rhythms of grace. I am not there yet. Perhaps I never will be. My intent is to invite you along for that journey. Be forewarned that it will be a road with lots of bends and perhaps a little bit of traveling in reverse.

That phrase, "unforced rhythms of grace", is from the Message paraphrase of Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.

Why do I walk through life overly burdened, feeling squeezed on all sides, when I know my Redeemer lives? I know all this stuff already. Why does it not translate from my head to my heart? I, too, want to be a woman who moves forward instead of pushes forward. I want to live in the unforced rhythms of grace.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day 2009

Two peas in a pod.


Nicholas & Olivia, you would have had so much fun with your dad! He's the kind of dad that will always take you for a Slurpee if you want one, the kind of dad that loves to be piled on, the kind of dad that plays the music really loud in the car for you, the kind of dad that lays down in bed with you at night and listens to you talk about whatever you want. The kind of dad who would do anything for his family.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Purification

I started this post with the intention of making assurances that all is well. That after I got everything off my chest that I was OK. Well, maybe I am OK, but maybe what "OK" means isn't necessarily that I am not free from feeling depression, or spending time contemplating where I'm at right now in my life.

What I have been thinking about is about the refining process. How turning up the heat, just to the right temperature, will purify molten metal and bring impurities to the surface. One degree hotter and the metal is ruined. One degree lower and the purification will not happen. I think that what I am experiencing right now is exactly what I am supposed to be experiencing. The things hidden deep within me that I didn't realize were there are rising to the surface, where they can be identified, dealt with, and discarded.

I was talking with a friend tonight about how I mentioned experiencing depression in my previous post (against my better judgment - I would rather only share my high points) and her only comment was, "well, it's probably time, isn't it." And she may be right. The low points are not to be avoided, but accepted for what they are. I want to thank you all for your encouraging words over the last few days. They are part of the refining, too.

King Solomon, the wisest man in history, said it best:
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bedtime Prayers

Tonight Sabrina wanted to pray together during our bedtime snuggles. She prayed for her dad's back, and then she asked me if I was sick too. I asked her to pray for my heart.

She prayed that God "would fill my heart with great things."

I'm so glad He listens to her prayers.

Unlikely Gift

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well–whatever “well” is on our opinion–then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.

Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to “try harder.” We seem to believe success in the Christian life (however we define success) is basically up to us: our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way. We give lip service to the attitude of the Apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10), but our unspoken motto is, “God helps those who help themselves.”

The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience.
-excerpt from Jerry Bridges' book Transforming Grace

Yeah. That's me. The part that's "living by the 'sweat' of my own performance." With all that I've learned about God's grace over the last 2 years, I'm still trying to white-knuckle this life on my own. Lord, I choose to thank you for this unlikely gift of grief that you have given me. I trust You to lead me deeper into your grace.

Just Believe

I've been knocked flat on my ass. (I know, that's not the best choice of words, but frankly, it says exactly what I mean.)

I've been rapidly overtaken by a spirit of heaviness, even depression. I've been tired, dull, irritable, eating erratically, and well, depressed. I've been crying out to God to show me what's wrong with me. I'm astonished at how quickly you can be overwhelmed by depression, and once it has settled in, how powerless you feel that you can do anything about it.

Well, if you didn't already guess, nothing's wrong with me. In this quiet time God so graciously provided for me, He has been speaking into the expectations I've been carrying over my life. It's been just over a year since I went back to work full-time after losing my twins. I went back at this time of year because it's our busiest season and I didn't want to let anyone down. After all, I was doing really well, right?

I'm back to full circle. A year later, another busy season past, and nothing has changed. We're still struggling with the same debts. We still have the same accumulated clutter in our basement that I haven't dealt with. We still haven't decided what to do about having more children. We still haven't landscaped our yard. We still haven't done anything with the twins' room.

And when it felt like everything that could go wrong did in the past week, I was undone. Two years ago we proudly moved into this house with twins expected to arrive any time. Two years later, what has changed?

My heart, for one. My perspective? My relationship with Corrie and Sabrina. My friendships. My families.

I looked at Corrie last night and by the grace of God was able to say, "Right now, at this very moment, things are OK." And they were. And they still were the moment after that, too. I have put myself under so much pressure to change, to show the world that Nicholas & Olivia's brief time here mattered, that I've only really been looking at what has not been done. It's overwhelming to stare into the face of everything you're not and try to figure out how you're fix it.

God hasn't asked me to do that at all. He just asks me to believe, just believe, and He will take care of the rest. Yes, I'm still learning that, and will keep on learning it until I get it. God, give me the patience to walk this walk one step at a time.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Too Busy to Grieve

I'm coming off of a very, very busy time at work and my energy, strength, and defenses are low. I've been following a few grieving mother blogs lately that have left me racked with guilt because they're getting petitions signed and planting trees and taking family pictures by gravesites, and what have I been doing?

I've been too busy to grieve. There. I've said it. Grieving takes a lot of energy. Remembering takes a lot of initiative and creativity. Looking deeply into the hole in your heart is painful. Forgive me, but I still feel a lot of "mommy guilt" even if Nicholas & Olivia aren't here. You know, the guilt you experience when you read articles and talk to other moms and hear about the stuff you're not doing? My mommy guilt is eased with Sabrina, because even though I haven't parented her well, by the grace of God, she's an amazing little person. However, I don't have such visible results with my twins. It's so much easier to pour into Sabrina all that I would have poured into the three of them.

I need a grieving mom mentor. Someone wise and caring who has gone before me and can tell me that it's OK to not know what to do to remember my babies. Someone who will tell me I'm not a failure because I can hardly recall anything about their life at home, before their time in hospital. Someone who will gently remind me that time has carried us forward and that it is good and acceptable and right to live well. Someone who knows that grieving doesn't ever stop, that it ebbs and flows with the rhythms of your life. Someone who will call me on holding myself under perpetual judgment when no one else does.

I am surprised that I still struggle with not wanting to grieve, a year and a half later. With how well I can compartmentalize that time in my life and focus on what's in front of me, in the here and now. With how impatient I am with myself and the process.

As hard as it is, I am so thankful to God for putting me in a place that's too big for me to handle on my own. When I allow it in, His grace makes life flow in a way that I never could. Being too busy to grieve also means being too busy to allow Him to fully heal my broken places. Just as a physical injury needs to be treated gently and with respect, so does my heart.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Am I Doing This Thing Right?

Recently I've had to tell the short version of our story a few times again, and each time it's met with the response, "You're so strong..." And I never know what to say to that because I just did what I had to do and truly only through the grace of God.

But I've also been wondering if "You're so strong..." is code for "Why don't you look sad?" or "How could you have moved on so quickly?" or "Do you miss them at all?" or "Are you out of touch with reality?"

As I visit the blogs of other grieving mothers I notice that what they are still experiencing is so different from me. Am I doing this thing right? Am I doing "too well"? Do I think about Nicholas & Olivia enough? Am I remembering them enough? If they are not physically here to demand my attention, do they get enough space in my life? My heart tells me that I am doing the best I can, with what I know, but I am plagued with whether it is enough.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Changed - One Year Later

I've been restless lately. Feeling like I'm on the brink of a major change. I sure hope so.

I wrote this post one year ago and find it amazing that I'm still feeling the same way. Longing for lasting change in my life to mark that it is different because Nicholas and Olivia lived. So mindful of how easy it is to be sucked back in to the way life was before. Desperate to find a way to prevent it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day 2009


I could just eat her up with a spoon!!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Live Interview with QX104

video

Corrie and I were asked to share our story for the Caring for Kids radiothon on April 30, 2009 in support of the Children's Hospital . This is a recording of our live interview with Caroline Hunter & Troy Westwood of QX104.

Live Interview with Hot103

video

Corrie and I were asked to share our story for the Caring for Kids radiothon on April 30, 2009 in support of the Children's Hospital . This is a recording of our live interview with Ace & Chrissy of Hot103.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reason to Sing

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship
from "The Desert Song" by
Hillsong

Corrie and I recently had the privilege of being interviewed to support the Children's Hospital radio telethon here in Winnipeg. We believe in the good work they do to help sick children and their families and appreciated the chance to give back in what ever way we could.

It's been a while since I've had to tell the whole story to someone. In the social situations where I've needed to mention that Nicholas & Olivia were in Heaven, it wasn't the time or the place to go into the details. The people we interact with the most also went through the whole thing with us at the same time we did. We were told that day at the radiothon that our story was one of the saddest they had heard. It's been a while since I've heard that comment, so I wasn't prepared with a response other than "thank you". I know that they were being kind and trying to validate our pain and empathize with our situation, but it's still a hard thing to hear when there are so many sad things going on around us.

I know now how I would respond. Our story is not a sad one. It is one of victory. And of peace. And hope. We have gone through bitter loss and have emerged whole and strong. We have not been destroyed.

I've been thinking a lot about the lyric above and what it means in the context of my life. No matter what, I have a reason to sing. I had to meditate on that for quite a while before I came to the realization that if I'm reluctant to sing in every season of my life then there's something flawed in my understanding of who God is. If I have places of distrust, or bitterness, or skepticism, then I'm missing something and I need to seek the truth persistently until my understanding is restored. Only then can I have victory. And peace. And hope.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Forgetting What is Behind

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13

I've had this piece of Scripture on my heart now for days. I was at first a little concerned, because I wasn't sure if it was a nudge for me to forget everything that happened and "move on". But what also came to my heart was the reassurance that it was not who but what. And anyway, I can't forget about Nicholas & Olivia because they are not behind, they are eternally present.

So I gave some thought to the word "forget". When I forget something I've got my mind on something else and have lost focus on the thing that was forgotten. Maybe forgetting is less about discarding and more about redirecting focus. The meaning of the Greek implies something that is neglected, or no longer cared for. Anything that you're neglecting or not caring for cannot grow (like my tomato plants by the end of summer). Are there things in my life that need to be neglected so they cannot grow? So that what I am straining toward can bear fruit?

Perception as Reality

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection of reality as in a riddle or enigma, but then when perfection comes we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood by God.
I Corinthians 13:12 (AMP)

To continue in my latest theme of waiting on God and expecting change, I realized the other day that perception indeed is reality, even in relationships. Have you ever been in a place where someone believes something about you, and even when you've changed, you can't do anything for them because of what they believe about you? For example, I never was the most conscientious housekeeper and it has been a slow "training" by my husband to bring me to the point where I can say that I have a neat, clean house most of the time. However, because of the circumstances of where I started and what I have been like, it has been hard for him to make the connection to the habits I have established now. He often cannot see what I have done and usually notices the few things that have not been done.

I wonder if I have been like that with God lately. Am I only seeing what He hasn't done? Is my flawed perception my reality of what God is like? Am I blind to what He is doing in my life because that's not what I think I should be looking for?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Comfortable

I've been restless lately. Wondering if life has become too comfortable again. I seem to easily settle into a state of inertia where my routine is my god. Go to work, home again, supper, time with Sabrina, settle on the couch for the evening. Praying that I don't waste my time in idleness but not doing anything to change it.

It's the same life I had before Nicholas & Olivia came along. And that's what concerns me. I've been crying out in prayer for balance, thinking that balance meant more time at home. Readers, do you know how subtle and relentless the Enemy of your soul is? He had turned something as simple and beautiful and godly as home into an idol to trip me up. God's response to my prayers for balance was more restlessness, so that I would continue to seek Him and discover what His best was for me. And I was only able to hear that after a crazy day of work, swimming lessons, then meeting a very wise friend for a late-evening tea. I love the way God works!

I realized that I was again seeking my own definition of balance instead of allowing Him to define it for me. Did you know that anything that you invest into Him gets returned back many times over? That doesn't only apply to money. It works for time, too.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Time is Now

There are some things in my life that I've been waiting for. But it struck me the other day that I might be focusing my energy into either waiting or anticipating instead of engaging in what is going on around me right now.

When Moses asked God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name? Then what shall I tell them?' " God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

God defines Himself as present reality. He IS. That means He is in what's going on around me. I want to be deliberate about acknowedging the wonder of that.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just Around the Corner

During a car ride to school one morning just after our recent snow storm in Winnipeg, Sabrina lamented that it wasn't Spring anymore. I reminded her that it was still Spring even if it didn't look like it. I also knew from years of experience that Spring always comes even if it seems like it will be winter forever.

I thought about the significance of that conversation and wondered how many times I've cried out to God for something to change instead of resting in the confidence that the change is already happening, and I just can't see it yet.

Then I remembered a conversation, again in the car with Sabrina, only a week earlier. We were on the way to her yearly checkup, a destination that she is familiar with. She kept asking, "Are we almost there?" and I would respond, "It's just around the corner," knowing that we were only a block or two away. She kept saying that she couldn't see it so it must still be really far. Only when we turned the corner and she could see our destination with her own eyes was she satisfied. Obviously, my definition of "we're almost there" and "just around the corner" was not the same as hers.

How many things are there in our lives that are just around the corner? Those things we have been waiting for, that we cannot see yet, that we think must still be so far away? Can we trust the One leading us? Can we rest in confident expectation that those things we long for are closer than we think?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Disappointed With God

A conversation with a friend the other day turned to holding on to faith in the face of disappointment with God. My friend had made some big steps of faith that had not gone the way they were expected to, and has been struggling with trusting in Him with anything else since. The conversation was seasoned with the comment "...I don't know how you held on to your faith, by the way..." and then moved on to other things.

That phrase stuck with me and I've been thinking about it ever since. What was different about my experience than any other person who has been disappointed with God? I mean, I really believed that God was going to heal Nicholas. Even just after he passed away, I was waiting for him to be miraculously resurrected. I was so confused. And did not get any less confused when Olivia passed away too.

But I could not give up on God. At least with God, I had something to believe in. Without Him there was only despair. If there was not a good reason out there somewhere for two beautiful babies to die one after the other, then there was no good reason for anything. And the desolation of that was more scary than trying to understand why God had allowed something like this to happen to us.

I don't think I was wrong to believe in Nicholas' healing, nor do I think he would have been healed if I had done anything differently. Maybe I don't even know what healing really means. What I do know, I mean really know, is when you seek to know who God really is, the less disappointed with Him you become.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ten Thousand Years

When we've been here ten thousand years -
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise -
then when we've first begun.

Ever since I saw Nicholas and Olivia on the other side, I've had this chorus of Amazing Grace running through my head. It is such a beautiful image of the timeless glory we will enter into one day.

I've been thinking a lot about how God really sees us. When I see a person, I see them as they are at that moment. But God sees us from beginning to end. A culmination of who we were, who we are now, and who we are going to be. When someone leaves this earth we grieve over a life cut short. A life interrupted. Maybe we are looking at it from the wrong perspective. A limited perspective.

When I saw my children in perpetuity as babies, I limited them to who they were. Incomplete. Interrupted. Cut short. Now that I have seen them as the completion of who they are, I rejoice. As a mother, that's what I long for. To see my children to grow into who God made them to be.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Revelation

I have been wondering for a while if and when this blog is coming to its natural end. My friend Misty keeps telling me I have more to say. So, I find it ironic that after my last post, basically saying there isn't anything more to say, that I have been inspired to write another post.

I was at Bible study. As our teacher was talking about how some of us present had had "big prayers" prayed over them that were yet to realized, my mind went immediately to some of the prayers Nicholas and Olivia had prayed over them. A Spirit-filled young woman had prayed that Nicholas would be a "mighty man of God," and I treasured that prayer as truth. I was confused when his life was cut short here on earth. His destiny was not yet fulfilled. Our pastor prayed that Olivia would become a healer, one of peace. Another prayer my heart ached to see incomplete.

My skepticism quickly turned to revelation as I saw in my mind's eye a picture of Nicholas and Olivia as young adults. More than alive. They were like the warriors of old, as in a legend, shining like the sun. And then I realized that their destiny has been fulfilled - I just can't see it yet.

I have drawn a great deal of comfort from the revelation that I could relate to them as people and not just as babies. That has been a great joy in my relationship with Sabrina as she has grown older, and I grieved not being able to have that with my twins. And again, I am awed by the knowledge that our circle is unbroken.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What's Left to Say?

It's been a while since I've written a post. I think about it often, but don't really know what to write about.

Life goes on. As a family, we live, we love, we work, we play. We remember. We seek to live in a way that honors Nicholas and Olivia and all that they taught us. But these are all things that seem to be my recurring theme lately.

So what's left to say? God is good, He is faithful, His love endures to all generations. I know this to be true.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Question

"Does Sabrina have any brothers or sisters?"
(awkward pause)
"Well, yes, she has a brother and sister in Heaven. They passed away last winter."
(awkward pause)
(condolences)
(change in topic of conversation)
I can never say that I have "just one". It doesn't seem right to not mention the twins just because it's complicated and uncomfortable. But it's complicated and uncomfortable.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rubies

Nicholas & Olivia's birthstone is a ruby. In researching the folklore and meaning of rubies, I found a quote that says "the Ruby's red glow comes from an internal flame that cannot be extinguished, making a gift of this stone symbolic of everlasting love."

It is one of the most highly prized gems in history, considered to have magical powers, and believed to be a talisman against evil.

I cherish the thought that the rubies I now wear, one for Nicholas and one for Olivia, represent everlasting love. They also represent the beauty that is created from really hard circumstances.

My Corrie is a good man, a good husband, and a good father. Not just because it was his delight to give me a gift of "everlasting love", but because it was as important to him as it was to me to have something beautiful and tangible to remember our children to the world.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Conquered!

Saviour...He can move the mountains...My God is mighty to save...He is mighty to save...Forever...author of salvation...He rose and conquered the grave...Jesus conquered the grave…


I was on my way home when the song Mighty to Save came on the radio. It's one we have sung many times at church and when times were at their darkest, I tended to focus on the power of the lyric "My God is mighty to save..."

Today I heard the lyric "He rose and conquered the grave...Jesus conquered the grave…" Conquered! Conquered! I haven't had a chance to meditate on the depth of what this truly means yet, but I sure am excited to find out!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Talking and Remembering

I need to thank you. I was reluctant to share that I had been feeling lonely, but I resolved back at the beginning of this journey that I would stay real. After I poured my heart out in my last post, and poured it out again to God, good things have been happening today.

All of your lovely comments! Thank you for reminding me that I'm not alone in this. I knew it, but it's so nice to hear it.

Connections at church. I was so blessed by one particular conversation, where the person I was chatting with asked how I was doing, then felt uncomfortable and confessed that she never knew if she should ask how I was doing or not. Where the blessing in this is that for all those conversations I've had lately where no one asks anything about how our family is doing, I can take comfort in the thought that many of them wanted to.

Even in Facebook. In particular, I had a lovely message from someone we love and it was a real encouragement.

Don't get me wrong - it's not that I want everyone to be thinking about me and my family all the time. That's not my point here. But it's really hard to keep the memory alive of those who aren't with us here without talking and remembering. Maybe the next step in my journey is finding out how to do that.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Now What?

So, here we are. We've made it past all our big milestones.

Now what?

I thought I would be relieved to have the tension of this season of rememberance over and be ready to start fresh into another year. But, what am I moving on to, exactly? My children, and the events of last year, are a distant memory to all but the people closest to us. I struggle with how I'm going to keep them present with us and their memories alive in a real, tangible way. I have no new stories. No new pictures. No opportunities to proudly share how they've grown and what they're doing. You've heard it all before.

The farther I get away from their point in time, the more I come up against a new kind of loneliness. I long for understanding, for someone who "gets it". I fight against my children fading into obscurity, part of that unfortunate "thing" nobody ever talks about. All around me, families are going about their lives, children growing and changing. Without Sabrina, I would have been totally left behind.

So, now what?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Things I Learned From Olivia

Good things come in small packages.

Don't ever, ever give up.

If you want to be noticed, make a lot of noise.

Bright blue eyes can win anyone over.

With acceptance, comes peace.

Olivia's New Birth Day

Early in the morning of January 12, 2008 our little Olivia left us to be reborn into eternity with her brother. We mourned her bitterly, for she was our hope, our consolation.

Livvie, our bright little girl, how we miss you. We celebrate you and remember you on your New Birth Day. The hope you brought remains with us, for we know we will all be together again.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tending Jethro's Sheep

I wonder if Moses had a plan for his life before he killed the Egyptian and fled for the wilderness. Maybe he was going to rescue the Hebrew people by winning Pharaoh over from inside the family. Maybe he was going to try to rejoin his Hebrew brethren in the brick pits. Maybe he was going to get a job in the Egyptian government, raise a family, and retire somewhere nice.

I doubt he ever thought he would end up in the Midianite wilderness, tending sheep. He did that for 40 years until God called to him from the burning bush to lead His people out of slavery.

Over a year ago, my life turned upside down. I was all of a sudden in a place that I never thought I would be. I had a plan for my life, and I was really excited about my twins and turning my heart toward raising children and caring for my family. I believe that over this past year I have come to accept that life did not go according to plan. But I still look to Moses' example. Yes, he got comfortable in Midian. He married, had a family, learned a new career. But he never lost hope in God's plan for his life. He named his firstborn son Gershom, which means "sojourner". He knew he was a stranger passing through. He named his second son Eliezer, which means "God is my help". He knew he could not fulfill his destiny without God.

Right now, I'm tending Jethro's sheep. But that just means my "burning bush moment" is yet to come.

Monday, January 5, 2009

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

We are soon coming to a year since our Olivia passed through to the next world, and as I remember the events of her last few days with us, I struggle with bitter regrets.

We were so heartsick, so exhausted, so incapable of comprehending what was happening to our family. I tell myself we did the best we could. If we could have done anything differently, we would have.

Oh, how I wish I knew then what I know now! I would have drawn even deeper on the Lord's strength and wisdom. I would have held her more, sang to her more, read to her more, talked to her more, told her everything I knew. I would have left the safety and support system of the hospital and brought her home.

But what I also know now is grace. I used to think that Jesus' death on the cross was only to make right those things I did wrong. What I know now is that it can also make right the things I didn't do right.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I had considered writing a Christmas letter, but what could I say about the past year that hasn't already been said here? So I thought I would launch a new tradition: a New Year's letter.

I always get excited about a new year, eager to get back into a routine after the hustle and bustle of Christmas, energized by the possibility of new projects and making better what we already have. I don't write New Year's resolutions, because I am usually living in a state of resolution.

Since you can't contemplate where you're heading without looking where you're at, permit me for a moment to reflect. 2008 has been a year of readjusting for our family, coming to terms with what is. We have gone through all the major milestones but one. We are strong. We are at peace. We are close. We are blessed. We are incomplete, but have discovered that a family can span two worlds at the same time and still be a family.

What do I see for 2009? I believe that we will take the gifts given us by our children and use them to their full potential. We will become even closer as a family. We will be wise with the resources that God has given us. We will be better friends. We will focus on the things that matter. We will not waste time on those things that complicate and enslave.

God has been wonderfully good to us, and it is the desire of my heart that we will bless Him with the way we live. 2009 holds so much promise.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)