Strawberry Face {and faith}

The other day Bubby brought me my Bible. I had read something from it that morning, but he must have seen me putting it down, and his curiosity must have made him wonder more about it.

He loves books.

He crawled up next to me, and placed it in my lap, looked up at me and said “Reeead?

My heart was a puddle. I read to him. Until this moment I had forgotten, that when I was carrying him I would read Psalm 1 to him everyday.

Everyday.

I don’t know when I stopped, or why.

But it made me wonder a lot.

How do you raise your son to love the God you know?

To love him, to want to serve him…

to believe that when your world comes crashing down – there is a God that says to cast your care upon him, because he cares for you?

Does any amount of reading teach him this?

Does any amount of discipline, guidance?

Does any amount of love?

I worry I am not doing enough to share the love of God that my heart has come to know. To think about the love of God makes me tear up, because I can remember the times he has shown me his love, and I didn’t deserve it. How can you not love a God like that?

But does any amount of testimony teach him this love?

But I think to find that answer, I have to ask the question again.

How do I teach him to love the God that has been there for me?

Perhaps it is living this love.

And believing that the word of God does not come back void.

Trusting God, and reciprocating the action God calls us to do, to cast these cares on him.

Placing even my two year old’s heart in the palm of his hand. That one day, he might learn to love and trust this God – more than his mama was ever able to.

And that one day Bubby will be able to witness just how good our God is, and fall in love with him all on his own.

Maybe in reality, it starts with me.

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. - 2 Thessalonians 3:5

You know you’re a mama to a toddler when…

You know you’re a mama to a toddler when your carpet looks like a land mine of Nabisco crackers and goldfish.

… when you crave sleep, but work through nap time instead of resting.

… when you start dancing and/ or singing along with the Sesame street characters without even thinking about it.

… when the pantry door knob is greasy, sticky or wet because it is the most frequently opened door in your house.

… when your back yard is filled with broken toys, faded bouncy balls and a trampoline.

… when almost every other book has a chewed up or missing page. Or a bite out of the corner of the whole thing.

… when you wonder what you ate before the world of chicken nuggets.

… when the broom, vacuum and bath tub become your best friends.

… when you get kissed on the cheek or get hugs from a sweaty little child and LOVE it.

… when your car is filled with crumbs, toys and Chic-filA bags instead of old CDs.

… when your new favorite word is “Elmo mo” (Elmo).

… when you are obsessed with your iPhone because it makes documenting the quickest, short-lived but most precious moments an easy (otherwise, almost impossible) thing to do.

… when doing laundry takes twice as long because your little helper is… helping ;)

… when you put the alarm on during the day, not so much to keep the bad guys out, but your toddler IN.

… when you start saying things you never thought you’d say – like ‘don’t eat the book!’ or ‘please don’t put another cotton ball in your mouth’ or ‘stop eating cutips!! GROSS!’ (insert nails-on-the-chalkboard-face here)

… when cables and wires that used to just stay in one place now go missing into ‘the black hole’… forever. I think toddlers have a special skill for hiding things. I really do.

… when you drive into the Kroger parking lot and you hear one word suddenly repeating in the backseat… “Cookie?” “Cookie!?” “Cookie!?!?” (gotta love them free cookies)

… when organizing toys seems pointless. Who cares if we put the cow in the barn anymore? Just make sure he makes it into the toy box.

… when you venture out to Target by yourself and feel naked without them.

… when one of your favorite things to do is watch them sleep. They are so darn peaceful, beautiful. Perfect.

And… I wouldn’t trade this for the world.

A few things I would tell younger me…

She pulled her hair back, and squinted her eyes. Maybe if she didn’t look too hard, she might see something she deemed as beautiful looking back at her. The mirror never lied, she told herself. I am ugly. She thought long and hard about what it must be like to have perfect hair. Stick straight hair, like the popular girls at school.

She wished her thick, curly, (and at the time) unmanageable, frizzy hair away, almost daily.

There was a list actually, in her mind, of the things she would change about herself, if she could.

Looking back, if she had gotten her way, she would have been left with nothing more than a shadow of who she really was. And totally unrecognizable.

Today, she’s glad not one of those wishes came true.

If I could go back and tell little Fran a few things, I’d start with her hair.

Girl, keep it. Own it. Grow it long.

One day, that will set you apart. And like the Bible says, it is your glory. 

And those eyelashes, they don’t need clumps of mascara. They’re long, they’re not very thick, but that’s how God made them.

And you might not have the best people skills on the block, in your neighborhood, or in your state- but you have a voice. Write. And let your heart spill it’s everything onto paper. One day it will help someone.

True happiness is not from without, it is from within. And there is no greater joy than to know you have made a difference, big or small, in someone else’s life.

And right now your parents are probably annoying you, but be good to them. Keep their hearts safe, and don’t break them. One day you will be a parent, and the decisions they are making for you will make more sense than you ever imagined.

And whether you believe it or not, little Fran, you are an artist. Regardless of what your silly professors say (remember they teach at SHSU, not Parsons!), you will do something with the talent God gave you, one day. Don’t let anyone convince you to put down your paintbrush, or any medium that happens to strike your fancy.

Be patient, dreams don’t happen overnight. Not usually, and almost NEVER in the way you expected.

And boys. Oh, my. We could camp out here for a while. But don’t give your heart away too soon. One day, when you least expect it, you’ll meet the man who will love you more than life itself. It’s your true heart’s desire, and it will happen.

But not with any guy from high school, or college – so stay focused on having a good time with the beautiful friends God sends your way… and… you know, studying.

And one day little Fran, your heart will break. You will lose confidence in those you trust. You will feel like the world has been taken from under your feet. But this will prepare you for the biggest storm of your life.

Keep your head high, your nose in His book, and your heart ever crying out to the only One who can make the sun shine again.

When that big storm comes, remember that Heaven is real and stay close to the One who brought you out of the last storm that you thought you would never survive.

He will make the sun to shine again, and when it does, let the sun embrace your broken soul. The warmth of the day will be refreshing, and something about living through this experience will make life more precious than it’s ever been.

And one day, you will realize that while you were struggling to merely survive this incredible storm, this gift fell in your lap. A gift to see life with raw eyes, an open heart, a non-judgmental spirit, and walking with a caution to not waste a second.

You will have a son. He will constantly be bringing tears to your eyes, because of the joy that has been restored. You will see him, and get glimpses of his sister in his eyes, his nose, and in the unexplainable moments that you get to witness.

Life will not be the way you hope and plan, it will be better, in it’s own way. Don’t fight the path God sends you on, little fran… embrace it.

Remembrance and Hope (a guest post)

I know many of you know Katy from Somewhere Over the Rainbow, but in case you don’t I hope you have a chance to visit her shop. Today she is offering a special discount (good through the end of June) for Small Bird readers.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Custom, personal creations from wood, paper, glass, ribbon and love. {And pretty soon we’re getting my new sewing machine into the mix!}

What started as a way to remember my daughter has blossomed into so much more. It’s about celebrating life and babies and children. It’s about cherishing those bonds that make us family, by blood or by love alone. It’s about remembering those moments you never want to forget and watching as time spreads before us.

I like to think my shop encompasses the sacred connection between remembrance and hope through the support of those affected by pregnancy and infant loss. Proceeds from remembrance items are used to gift such items to other families on similar grief journeys. I lost my beautiful daughter Hannah to stillbirth and these things are done in her honor. So thank you for stopping by and for your support.

In appreciation for all these things I’d like to offer a 20% discount good through the end of June on any purchase from my shop. Just use coupon code SPRING20 at checkout. I’d also be more than happy for you to follow this path with me…

shop / facebook / blog / pinterest

The Question

You know that question. For most people it’s a no brainer.

But if you’ve had a loss, it’s a tricky question loaded with guilt, hesitation and anxiety. And sometimes lies.

I took Bubby to the dentist this morning, and read the line on the form that went something like this…

“Names and ages of siblings”.

Do I put her name, and place age zero next to it? Do I put her name and put age three? Do I leave it blank and indicate he has no siblings?

Hm. Then I wonder, why this is even relevant to checking his teeth?

I left it blank.

A lie. But somehow that is what helped me the most. She isn’t age zero, and she isn’t a spunky little three year old here.

On the way out, the sweet nurse who simply adored our shy and bashful son asked if he was my only one.

Awkward pause, and another lie.

“Have more. You guys make beautiful babies.”

It made me smile, thinking of the possibility of having another precious child someday. But the truth is we have another one. And she was the most beautiful little girl I have ever seen.

My Life Memory Keepers {Paper Coterie}

Friends, I just have to show you what came in the mail the other day. Talk about last minute!

Yes, I am an affiliate of these wonderful folks, but honestly with this coupon I don’t even know if I make a dime. The only thing you have to pay is shipping! That is $40 off. I googled it, and it looks like the coupon deal ends today.

What I love about Paper Coterie:

+ they store your pictures and you don’t have to re-upload any photos for future projects

+ they are super friendly to work with

+ they are high quality, and I mean that with every bone in my body. In my first purchase, I got a free necklace and calendar for birthdays. sweet!

+ oh yea, and turnaround time is insanely fast

Use MYLIFE at checkout to get any “My Life” project for free. What you see in the pictures is a Memory Keeper. It is ginormous too, ya’ll. I plan on ordering a bunch more – one for just Joseph, just Jenna and maybe even wedding stuff. Think of all the possibilities :) You can customize the front, the text on the binding and the back.

Anyway, I’m in love with anything that makes use of my instagram photos!

Happy, happy Monday!

{shop here}

Home

I seriously need to find time to watch the sun set.

It makes home feel so… much… closer.

Sticks and Stones

If you are visiting for the first time, I am almost certain the first thing you will do is click to see what this blog’s all about. Who she is. And what in the world I am talking about when I say ‘beautiful mess’.

I am not the she.

And when you realize the she is a dead baby girl, you might be appalled (unless of course you walk this road with me and know what the pain of losing a child feels like, or know someone very close to you who does). You might click away, because it is too much.

But if you click away before reading a little, you will miss a few things…

that healing is REAL

how faith becomes stronger out of sheer desperation

that everything, everything changes after saying goodbye…

that you can embrace your plan b – whatever it is…

and realize you are picking up the pieces to this mess everyday…

I have had a few people tell me that my blog is sad to them, almost in a way that it makes them uncomfortable. I’ve even had people tell me they hate my blog.

Hate is a strong word.

If you have children, and have never had to bury one of them, losing a child is the furthest thing from your mind, and something you are convinced will be the end of you if you ever had to.

And it is unimaginable. But the truth is, it happens more often than you think.

When I lost my daughter, I made a pact that I would never let her memory fade. She was incredible, and I wanted the world to know it.

Aside from that, I was in shock that other women had done this… and survived.

This blog is for them. And for my son.

When you visit this blog, I hope you don’t walk away sad, in tears or in shock. My true hope is to share the audacity of hope in the face of grief. Because something about being so close to death, makes life so very precious. It is almost like being reborn. And you are never the same.

It hurts my heart to hear things like that, but honestly it won’t change my writing. After all, this is my blog.

And I feel strongly about being open and honest about real life. This is my life. And leaving the ‘sad’ parts out of this blog would be sharing a half truth… a lie.

To you it might be sad, but to me, it is a dare to live my life to the fullest.

f

Radiate e-class Giveaway!

I was never that girl who always wanted to be a photographer. I didn’t
carry a camera with me everywhere I went, and as a kid I hated it when
my mom would set me up in front of a beautiful arrangement spring
flowers and tell me to “Say cheese!”

I did own a camera, but it typically only came out during special
events or vacations. It did give me a way to capture important
memories, but even then I found it to be more of a hassle than an
enhancement during these special times. I’d often come home realizing
I had only taken two or three pictures during a week-long trip,
because I had left my camera tucked away in my purse the entire time.

If I’m being honest, I would have to admit that my camera was a source
of pure frustration back then. I never thought that down the road it
would end up being my lifeline, my source of connection, and a huge
piece of growth on my own personal life journey.

But after the loss of our first daughter Bella that’s what my camera
became. It was a way for me to hide from the world in my moment of
greatest pain, but also reconnect with nature and the world around me.
It was a way for me to still create when my body failed to do so. And
it taught me to love myself and be grateful for each and every moment
I’m given here on earth. These days, I am passionate about teaching
others about how a camera can do the same for them.

  • From behind the lens you can learn what truly weighs on your
    heart, and what’s most important to you.
  • From behind the lens you can capture magical moments of your own
    personal gratitude, of your unique perspective, and of your special
    life.
  • From behind the lens (+ computer screen) you can learn to utilize
    free tools that will transform your photos and your heart into
    artistry and self expression.
  • From behind the lens you can reconnect with yourself, with
    others, and with the world.
  • From behind the lens you can discover light – golden, warm and bright.
  • From behind the lens you can come along with me and you’ll simply
    radiate.

Today Beryl is offering one lucky SBS reader a spot in her
summer e-course: Radiate. This online photography experience is
designed to incorporate YOU time into the hustle and bustle of daily
life all while breaking down the complicated world of photography
editing using FREE online software.

To enter:

**You must follow this blog via email, RSS or bloglovin‘ to enter***

+ Like Beryl Ayn Young on Facebook

+ Sign Up For Beryl’s ‘Daily Doses of Camera Love’ here

+ Visit Beryl’s blog here

*please leave a separate comment for each entry*

Guest blogger, Beryl Ayn Young, serves as chief photography muse
over on her personal blog, and serves as teacher of
photography courses aimed at nourishing the mind, body, and soul. She
believes feeding the spirit with lifelong learning, photographic
healing, & a glass half full perspective. Beryl leads classes and
offers mentoring aimed at teaching you how to improve your camera
skills and cherish life’s journey. Come discover how photography +
self exploration + editing techniques = a radiant new YOU during her
upcoming photography e-course, Radiate launching June 2012
.

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED***

Winner is #62, Amanda! Congrats lovely lady, please check your inbox.

Guest Post {eat.live.make.}

I have been so blessed by Meghan and her blog, eat.live.make., and honored to have her sharing something so personal, beautiful and inspiring here today on loss. I hope you get a chance to read her words. They had me in tears by the end. In a good way :)

Hello beautiful readers of Small Bird Studios! My name is Meghan, and I blog over at Eat.Live.Make.

At first, my blog started as a journal chronicling my journey with celiac’s disease. But, after our first miscarriage, God has allowed me to connect with so many women {through the blog world}  who share stories of loss and infertility. Their honest stories have helped me in my journey of healing.

I hope my story can somehow help you in your journey as well.

I am so thankful for the honesty Fran has in her journey on her blog. I am so blessed by her words, and thankful to be able to share my story!

—————————————————————————

My journey started with a diagnosis of Endometriosis. After my surgery I was given two options:
1. strong doses of hormones in my system (who wants that?)

2. get pregnant right away- because that is the best chance I have of conceiving and eliminating infertility and pain for several years.

After a lot of prayer, my husband and I decided we would try to conceive. And God was faithful to allow our hearts to be open to bringing another member of our family into this world.

We tried for around 8-9 months without any luck, and much heartache.

In November of last year we were able to conceive, and tested positive a week before Christmas, and two days before my new nephew was born.

We were so excited, we told a few friends and family members on Christmas day.

We lost the pregnancy on January 1st.

It was painful, so painful physically. And shattering emotionally.

I was told to keep trying, so we did. And lost our second pregnancy in April.

I am still tender, and still heartbroken. Sometimes grief wells up inside me so strong I don’t think I can bear it. And sometimes I am numb.

I never know when it will strike.

But I welcome it.. I welcome it to remember and to grieve the loss of my children that I never got to see or hold.

But God has a way of redeeming our hearts from broken and ashen places. He has opened me up to a beautiful community of women who share stories that are similar, yet so different than mine.

He is continually showing me that His ways are Higher than my ways, and that He has triumphed over this fallen world.

He is fighting for my heart.

I am learning to trust in the unknown.

Will I be able to bear children? Will we have a the family of blonde haired, blue eyed children I dream of? 

But I know that if I can’t, and if we don’t, whatever He has for me is beautiful.

And in all of this, in all of the hurt and the unknown and grief, I long for heaven.

I long for the day when I can hug and hold and laugh with my children.

And I am so thankful (and quite jealous) that they get to glimpse heaven before me.

I hope they know that I love them with a mother’s love, and that I carry them with me always.

Breaking Away and other things

If you asked me about breaking away from my normal routine, and how that’s going I’d be tempted to flat out lie. But since I’m no good at lying, I’d tell you it’s a lot harder than it looks. It’s something I have to just do.

If you asked me about this blog, I’d tell you that I’m wiped out and rethinking everything. I want to declutter, redesign and possible (sadly) remove sponsors. Not because I don’t want to support them any way I can, it’s just a lot to handle at the moment. I’m thinking about using PassionFruit, or maybe nothing at all. I guess I just want my blog, life to be… simpler. Nothing’s decided yet though. Especially that part about the redesign (I still have a stack of business cards with this header design on them, so that’d be a big ugly move in itself ;).

If you asked me what I’m reading I’d tell you not much except this book by C.S. Lewis, called The Problem of Pain. What caught me was the title, but also the back of the book, “If God is both omnipotent and good, how can we explain the pain and suffering that people experience daily?”

Hmm. We’ve all wondered that a time or two. Or maybe I’m just that carnal.

If you asked me about my son, I’d tell you that something about the clock turning past his second year of life has completely thrown his (perrrfect) sleep schedule out. Is this normal??? Please just lie and tell me it is. It will make me feel better.

If you asked me about his eating, I’d tell you it’s getting better. That’s one for me, right? :)

If you asked me about this fog my brain seems to be in when it comes to writing, I’d tell you I feel inadequate on so many levels, heading this huge project of Still Standing Magazine. My own writing took a backseat for a few days while the launch party was going on, and I feel like I have to find my voice again.

If you asked me about our house, I’d tell you we rearranged the living room and it feels more like home than ever. Imagine? That’s all it took… moving a few couches around. We had a house right after we lost Jenna and that was the first place I ever felt truly at home (after marriage). A part of my heart never wanted to leave, but that just wasn’t the right thing for us to do at the time.

If you asked me about Mother’s Day, I’d tell you about the flowers Bubby brought me in the middle of his playtime in the dirt and rocks Saturday afternoon. His sweaty palm was squeezing something and all I could understand was “Fyyyy!” as he reached out his fist to me (normally this means butterfly).

I hesitated and let the things (?) in his hand fall to the ground. I saw the flowers, and my heart melted and I felt a little bad.

“Oh… flowers…” I secretly hoped he’d never stop being this sweet. A sigh of relief came over me too, that it wasn’t in fact a smushed up butterfly he was holding…

If you asked me about my husband, I’d tell you that watching him grow spiritually has encouraged me a lot lately.

If you asked me about grief, I’d tell you that I’m so tired of the sadness! Pretty much sick of it. I’ve been thinking a lot about pain, more about how frustrating it is, and that it never, ever changes. But then the other day, I was reminded that pain is in fact a gift. Just like the pain of a flesh wound, the pain of the a heart wound is an indicator that something isn’t right… complete… whole… fixed… healed.

Pain makes grief almost unbearable, but it also makes her life… real.

I’ve decided that my broken heart is a gift. At least for today.

Anxiety, Mother’s Day and… that thing called Gratitude.

The irony of having the magazine live, is I am having major writer’s block. And just in a weird funk.

I’m pushing through though.

I’m also having some weird anxiety about Mother’s Day. I think the card companies thrive off of that. To be honest I really don’t care much about the day. Mothers should be celebrated, honored, loved everyday.

What a sacrifice. I am thinking/ speaking of my own mom now.

I guess growing up I never really got it. Everything she did for me.

Since becoming a mother, I have had many, many humbling moments that my mom did this for me.

Poopie diapers, throw up, spit up, more poop, sick days, sleepless nights, midnight calls the the doctor, midnight runs to Walgreens, setting appointments, sitting for hours in the doctors’ office, haircuts, feeding, figuring out insurance stuff.

(I love you, Mommy).

Motherhood isn’t everything I thought I’d be, it’s more.

And it also came with a lot of surprises. Some welcome surprises, and some earth-shattering ones.

This weekend I have to say holding this sweet boy in my arms satisfies that ache on some level to mother a child in the here and now.

But the anxiety is probably from just not wanting to face yet another day that reminds me of her death, and being gone. Something that has been resting deep in my soul today is to focus on things to be thankful for. I am sure that is just God telling me to remember what I do have!

And I need that.

On my very first Mother’s Day Jenna was alive, and in the NICU. My heart was SOARING. She was well enough for Pete and I to slip away to church that Sunday for an hour or so. Of course being gone for two minutes from the incubator is torture, but I remember just beaming with so much pride.

I was a mother.

I sat next to my grandmother. She didn’t say a word, but she took my hand. She slipped a fuchsia stoned-ring off her hand (ruby? I really have no idea, but I think she knew it was Jenna’s ‘color’) and slipped it onto my hand.

She smiled and somehow that Mother’s Day I felt so validated.

Even if all we have now is memories of her, they are still ours. Forever.

 

Feeding the Giraffes

Dear Bubby,

In case you didn’t already know this, you are amazing.

And that my son, is an understatement.

Just a few months ago I took you to the zoo and honestly you could care less about the animals. Fast forward a few months (like may 2-3!) and you couldn’t get enough of them!

You kept calling everything ‘e-pheen’ (elephant), or a dog, or a kitty. For five bucks you and Daddy got to feed the giraffes. It was SO worth it too! I think you even called the giraffes dogs.

Silly kid.

Your eyes get about five times bigger when we hand you a chocolate chip cookie and you are crazy about outdoors, dirt and rocks.

You make this world a happier place. I hope and pray you keep that sweetness God gave you when you came into this world.

I love being your mama. #understatementnumber2

 

Today’s Hope

Her birthday was everything I hoped it’d be.

Actually it was more that I could have ever dreamed.

For the first time in a long time I could feel something. The distance that sometimes separates us from that raw grief and intense pain was gone, and that closeness that my heart has been longing for swept over me that day – with tears and joy, sadness and contentment. What a unique dance we dance, to balance these extreme opposites, every day, every moment but especially on days like this.

If it has to be this way – her up in Heaven and me down here, I really couldn’t have asked for more that day.

First of all, our magazine launched at 12:01 on her birthday (at her exact time of birth).

At 3am our press release went into the world and got picked up by more than 100 online television and news stations around the country, including Yahoo!

Around 8ish, our day started and couldn’t believe how quickly the magazine took off in a matter of hours.

A little bit before noon, Bubby and I headed to the cemetery to meet Pete (he was working and came out on his lunch break).

I sat in the grass, held Bubby close and read her this book. For the first time I didn’t feel crazy talking to her. I have heard of other people being able to talk to their loved ones at the cemetery, and the other day I just let it all go. I cried, I talked to her and I told her about life.

I have no earthly idea how much she can hear, or what the communication between this world and the next really is, but it felt good to get it all out.

Around sunset we did a butterfly release. All I can say is if you’ve never done this, you really really should. :)

It’s magical, and so much fun.

It made me teary watching the butterflies fly away, but in a sweet way it made me think of how quickly Jenna came and left. And a tugging feeling in my heart that she wasn’t meant for this world, but for a brief visit.

A handful of people in real life remembered this special day, and really that is all that matters.

She isn’t forgotten. She is missed. And Heaven is so real.

This is my today’s Hope.

*Linking up with The Journey.