Monthly Archives: April 2008

Ups and downs and hearts’ desires

Lately I haven’t been giving my posts a title until they are finished. Writing a title beforehand presumes you know what you are going to say, and I don’t. As I sit here with this blank slate of a computer screen before me, I have no clue where this post will go and which of the many things in my heart will find their expressions on the page.

When we first started this journey I used to tell people who asked after us, that it is a very up and down road.  Part of my motivation for saying that was to assure them, if they caught me on a good day, that I was not always in such a good place. I seem to have most of my ‘down’ moments alone and I am sure that there are many people in my acquaintance who marvel at how ‘strong’ and normal I seem to be.  Not so.

It does seem to me though, that there are up and down cycles, that often last for days. This is relatively speaking, life still always has that sad void but sometimes you notice it less. I asked hubby if he feels these cycles too and he does.  I was on an ‘up’ cycle for the weekend and most of yesterday, ever since our precious visit to the cemetary last week.  Last night, just when I was starting to wonder whether there was something wrong with me because I felt relatively normal,  I started spiralling down. My day today has been a missing-Jenna-acutely-almost-every-minute-of-the-day one.  I think maybe God allows these cycles so that there is a respite inbetween the days of deep sadness. Surely life would be very bleak if we were to be in the depths all the time.

I watched short video clips of her last night from when our camcorder was still working. I had taken these 60 second clips at the time and downloaded them directly to my computer to email to the family at SA. Jenna was obviously much younger in these video clips but I was still struck by her ‘joie de vivre’ and sparkly personality in them. She was so happy and full of life. I am longing to see the actual video footage that we had taken at the time.  Some sweet friends offered me the use of their camcorders so that we could play back the cassetes and convert them to dvd, but they weren’t compatible, so I am scanning ebay for a replacement camcorder.

I went outside this morning to let the dog out, and since she scales the fence at every opportunity to go and leave parcels on the neighbors’ lawn, 🙂 I stayed in the backyard while she did her business.  I lay down on the trampoline, looking up at the tree canopy above me, like Jenna and I had done so many times before. We would lie out there on lovely spring or fall days and watch the birds flit from branch to branch or see how the aeroplanes make ‘stripes’ in the sky. I missed having her little snuggly toddler body in the crook of my arm.  I was lying there, sobbing, when my middle son came out to tell me something. But he had left the door open, and Tom, Jenna’s big fat coddled-by-Sumi cat, snuck out.  I had to apologise to the boy for overreacting afterwards.  Tom will likely be back tonight, when he gets hungry.

Since Tom got out, I let Smuffy and Kiki in.  They were kittens not too long ago and Jenna used to often  cuddle them while she watched Noggin.  Smuffy didn’t know it, but he ministered to my heart today, in all his cute and cuddly cat-ness.  While the boy and I were doing math on the sofa he crawled on to my lap and fell asleep there. I gave the boy some work to do at the table and slouched down until Smuffy was tucked in the crook of my arm, with his furry head under my chin. We both took a little nap like that. It was bitter sweet. 

Of course nothing can compare to having Jenna cuddle me like that again. I had a fleeting moment of anger at God today because she went away so soon, taking all those lovely cuddles and hugs and kisses with her. I have not been angry before, and this anger was but a quick thought. I am determined not to fight my feelings though. I suppose I have to walk this journey and every possible emotion will have to find it’s way to the surface so that it can dissipate and leave just the peace and glory of God behind.   

Deep in my heart I know this is all for the glory of God. I know he is going to make something beautiful come out of it. Jenna’s little life will have touched many, by the time my life here on earth is through. I thanked her for that the other day.    

I am grateful for the lives that Jenna has already touched but in all honesty my hearts desire is for something quite selfish.  I want Jenna’s life, and death, to change me. Grief cuts deep, but I have in my mind’s eye the picture of it carving out a pocket in my heart. The deeper it cuts, the more space there is for God to ultimately fill. This is my prayer.

I have always longed to have the ability to carry the presence of God into any situation. To be like Peter or Paul who said: “Silver and gold I do not have, but such as I have, I give to you…”  I want to have  something to give to those who are needy, weary or thirsty. Yes, I do dream big.  I do want a whole lot from God. I want everything he’s got for me.


Time with the hubby

I got to spend some one-on-one time with my hubby today. It doesn’t happen often enough because he works long hours and life is busy. We had an appointment to see our pastor around noon, and hubby decided to take a longer break from work afterwards so that we could go to the cemetary and out for lunch.

The visit with our pastor was good. It was just a touch base kind of appointment which my pastor likes to do from time to time to see how we are doing. He has lost children himself and understands the heartbreak. His own experience is that you never truly ‘get over it’, and that there will always be a chamber in your soul where that loss is acutely felt. Yet time, he says, forms a bit of a crust over it, and you eventually don’t feel the intense emotion all the time anymore.

I thought about grief and redemption a bit on the way home in my car. The only thing I can liken this to is that it is almost like losing a limb. Initially the most obvious stares you in the face: Your arm is gone. You can’t see it anymore. You will never grow another one again. A part of you is missing forever. Then, as you start facing life again and attempt to adjust to this new reality, every little thing you do reminds you of your loss. Your clothes fit differently. Nothing is the same anymore. Things that required no thought or effort to you before are suddenly a challenge. You may eventually, unexpectedly, to your amazement, get a new arm – a prosthetic one.  God blesses you with the ability to enjoy things you thought were lost to you forever. He restores, bless his holy name!  Yet…the prosthetic limb that you value and treasure because of the new things it has brought into your life will still state the obvious. It is not real. It is not the original, and the original will be missed forever.

Boothe’s blog entry gave me much food for thought regarding God’s redemption. When we have gone through something as horrid and bleak and life-shattering as this, we struggle to make sense of it. It is part of our make up to seek the reason, the bigger plan behind it, to look for the beauty to come out of the ashes. We may start to form our own little ideas of how God may possibly turn this thing around for our good and our benefit. In the end though, our ideas of what is ‘the perfect outcome’ may not co-incide with Jesus’ far greater knowledge of where we are headed and what it will take to get us there. There are no guarantees that things will work out the way we plan. We look for what seems a perfect beauty for our dismal ashes but sometimes fail to see that the ultimate beauty is God himself. Gaining Jesus, and a greater measure of his presence and character in our lives is the ultimate redemption.  

Hubby and I went to see Jenna’s grave today. I got a bit upset when we arrived because the lawnmower dude had driven over a little ceramic angel that came in one of Jenna’s flower arrangements. I had placed it over her grave with a bunch of flowers on our last visit. Since there is no headstone yet, the guy drove right over the grave and the angel, shattering it in tiny pieces. I found pieces of it several yards away, and I quickly squelched some ugly thoughts about what I would have liked the flying shards of glass to do to lawnmower dude. 🙂

We sat down on the grass next the the grave for a few minutes. It is obvious to hubby and I both though – Jenna is not there, under the ground. We should not be looking down to find her, but up. Yet the grave is a touch point, something physical where we can leave a few flowers for Jenna and push a Strawberry Shortcake foil balloon into the ground for her.  I am glad now that we did choose to bury Jenna after all. At first I couldn’t bear the thought of it, of putting my baby under the ground, and I wanted to scatter her ashes to the wind instead, preferably over a special flower garden.  It was precisely because I wanted to look up and not down to find her. Now I realise I can do that, and still be blessed with a physical place that is Jenna’s alone. 

When we left I shot up a little thought to Jenna: “Bye, my sweetie. I love you.”  It may seem strange, but I almost felt her joy and happiness that we had been there to honor her memory. If she could have kissed my cheek, I think she would have, and I thought I heard her whisper: “I love you too.” I mentioned this to hubby afterwards and his face lit up. He had felt the same way.  We didn’t imagine it. Who would have thought that I would feel so close to my little girl there, in the place of the dead? Of couse it just goes to show us what we already know – she is not dead, but alive with Jesus.

Hubby and I ended our time together with lunch. It was yummy and the company was good. Sadly, all good things come to an end and he is back at work now, and here I am, typing away when what I really need to do is tackle a grossly disorganised house and piles of unfolded laundry.  Sigh.  


At Walmart

I am starting to not enjoy shopping at all. It used to be a fun outing for Jenna and I. So, when I went to Walmart yesterday, and the middle boy volunteered to join me, I welcomed his presence in the hopes he would be a welcome distraction. It was not to be. We were both sad.

There is something about going to Walmart, from the time I leave my parked car and enter the store, until the time I check out and return to my car, that makes me miss Jenna acutely. Everything is a reminder of her.  I still obsessivley fold out the little toddler seat thingy even through there is no toddler to put in it. Jenna and I had many sweet conversations while she was sitting in those shopping carts and I was pushing it around. So I fold it out in honor of her.

There were girls around Jenna’s age all over the store. I heard the first one before I got to see her. She was having a hissy fit about something and people were staring and exchanging glances with one another, obviously thinking: “What a spoilt child.” I immediately felt for the mom, who stuck to her guns admirably and eventually came out on top. She was obviously feeling harrassed and embarrassed. I wanted to run to her and blurt out that it was OK, and that it was just a ‘moment’, but that soon the hissy fit will be over and she will get to enjoy her little girl again. I am not so lucky.

That was the first time I teared up in the store.

Then there was the little blonde, pony-tailed little girl who was skipping around her mothers’ legs just like Jenna used to do. And the little girl who carried on similar sweet conversations with her mommy at the vegetable stands. At the check-out, we stood behind another little blonde girl who giggled at my son’s attempts to play peek-a-boo with her. I longed to witness Jenna and her brothers having fun together like that again.

The store – no, my whole life – is full of reminders of Jenna. Everything either sparks a memory, or reminds me of an unfulfilled wish. I never got those doll clothes for Jenna that we looked at before our SA trip. There is no-one in the house to buy mozarella cheese sticks for anymore, only Jenna liked them. Those cute shoes at the end of the aisle are no use to Jenna now.  She will never get to ride that big-girl bike with her brothers. The list goes on.

 The boy and I had several moments yesterday when we would just turn to each other with a knowing look of a shared memory.  He teared up several times in the store too. Taking him with me was not a comfort as I had hoped but it was a good time of bonding.

Today was a more weepy day than most.  I realise I am not only grieving for Jenna but I am grieving for so much more. She was my only daughter…a heart’s desire come true. At age 42, I know there will not be any more children for me. A heart’s desire snuffed out.  No more pink in the laundry basket. Part of me hopes…and I hesitate to say this…that somehow perhaps God will fill my arms again. Yet I know I am not young and time is short. Hubby and I feel an urgency to get prepared for ministry and that is where our priority lies right now.  

Jenna was the only toddler in our home.  It is a magical time of discovery that I have absolutely loved in all of my children and I miss having it cut off from our lives so abruptly.  No more Dora the Explorer for us, no more tickles and giggles and games of peek-a-boo or hide and seek. No more cuddles in front of the tv, or sleepy toddler breath fanning my cheek. No more mispronunciations and childlike interpretations of the world to make us smile. Our lives are just a bit duller and more mundane without our little Jenna to add her spark to it.

I could end this blog off on a semi-high note and find something to say that might sound encouraging. Some spiritual insight or whatever. But I am not going to. I am tired and I need to go to bed.  My head is spinning. 🙂  I suppose I can say that through it all I still have hope. I can’t see the forest for the trees more often than not, but I know enough about Jesus to know that he is faithful.

Boy, did this post ever come out differently than what I had planned! I really shouldn’t write so late at night…no more brains left.

Let us be going

Our pastor said something yesterday about Lot’s wife who turned into a salt pillar. It was a passing comment but it stuck with me.  

I find myself time and time again trying to re-create the past with Jenna and to forget, just for a moment, that she is gone. I long to feel that same joy in having my little girl on this side of heaven just one more time.  I smile at toddlers in the grocery store, trying to pretend I am sharing a smile with Jenna, I hold her best friend’s hands, hoping they’d feel like hers. When a little girl at church graces me with a hug I try to imagine it is Jenna’s.

No smile is quite like my muffins’ though, no hand feels like hers, and no other hug can feel as trusting and familiar as Jenna’s was. Try as I might, I can never return to that blissful pre-17th-of-February state where my enjoyment of Jenna was as simple and natural as my next breath.

If I had known she would be leaving us so soon I would have positively drunk her in, I would have taken lots of videos and pictures, I would have written down all her comments about the pictures she drew, I would have taken note of all her cute expressions.  But I had not, and so I find myself sometimes frantically rifling through the pages of my memory to grab a hold of them before my brain too, lets me down.

A friend recently said there’s a difference between treasuring memories and holding on to the past. I think the difference for me is going to be found in how much I let Jesus into my grief picture. I can sink into my own world and wrap a coccoon around me, preferring to alternately lull myself into numbness with all the many distractions around me, or sit alone with my feeble attempts to try to bring Jenna back, if just for a fleeting moment in my head. Or I can move forward.

Part of me loathes the expression ‘to move forward.’ It seems to imply that I am leaving Jenna behind and that every step I move forward, widens the gap. I could absolutely not bear to do that. It is slowly dawning on me though, that there is no danger there. How could there be? My muffin is always going to be with me. She is in my heart.

I can invite Jesus into my grief and move forward with him, going where he leads, and I can carry Jenna with me at the same time. I do not need to choose.

So…I want to make Jenna’s memory as vibrant and as precious as she was. I remember that at her memorial, I asked the people to always feel free to talk to me about Jenna. I told them that they wouldn’t scratch open some wound or anything like that. I hurt anyway, whether people mention Jenna to me or not. It is beyond precious to me when people talk about her, and tell me how they saw her, or when they add their memories to my own. 

A friend then suggested that I circulate a journal amongst the people who knew Jenna, so that they could write down some of their favorite memories of her.  Several people at our church have already had a turn, and when the journal is done there, I want to pass it on to my homeschool friends and family. (and those of you who felt they knew Jenna in cyber-land are free to email (or mail) me comments too, I could print it for her journal). It is already a great source of joy and a blessing to me to read and to know that many loved Jenna and were touched by her life.

Back on topic though… Please pray for me. I don’t want to become a salt pillar. 🙂 I don’t want to become bogged down and stagnate. I want to hear Jesus’s voice as he says: “Arise, let us be going”, and I want to follow him to the end of the world if he asks me to. 

Nothing much to say

I have either been busy, or the boy has needed the computer, or I have felt that the words have been too jumbled in my brain or there hasn’t been many words at all – hence the silence on my blog. I attempted to write about where I am at just now but the words weren’t coming out right. I will leave it for another time, though by then I expect I will feel differently. This is a strange thing, this grieving business. You never know where you will find yourself a day, an hour, or even 5 minutes down the line.

When people ask me how I am I always say I am fine, or doing OK. I feel a little inner twinge when I reply in this way though, because in reality I am NOT OK. By saying I am fine, I am really saying that I am holding it together and am not unravelling by the fringes.  I am not going looney and I am not quite depressed nor do I find myself quite alone in the darkness. But I am not OK. The fact is, I am walking in this very strange place called grief (I think I said that already 🙂 ) and nothing is going to be normal for a good while.

I am very grateful that my hubby, who is normally not a talker at all, is really open and shares where he is at without reserve.  That is a great blessing to me. He attributes it to the fact that this thing is so much bigger than us, so undefinable, and it is not something you can slap a label on and push into a box. It is such a strange road (I think I said that already)  full of bends and twists and ups and downs that one might as well just blurt out what one is feeling. You are bound to feel differently soon enough anyway.  

Bible school this week has been encouraging because it reminds me that I have a vision… it isn’t just about the here and now which is so tumultuous and unpredictable and downright crazy. There is an expected end, and God is going to do what he has promised.  When I stand there in Bible school as we finish off an evening’s teaching I find myself full of hope that nothing is too big for God and that he is well able to do that work in me that I have asked him to do – even though I have been bold and asked for it all.   

We were driving somewhere this week and this song by Sanctus Real came on the radio. It caught my attention immediately. The chorus goes:

Whatever You’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but I believe
You’re up to something bigger than me
Larger than life, something Heavenly

I like those words, don’t you? Another part of the chorus says “I’m giving in to something heavenly.” Please pray that this will be true for me, that I will truly yield to what God is doing in me. My tendency is, and has always been, to lose myself in all kinds of distractions whenever the going gets tough. I don’t want to do that now.  I want to be real with God and face up to the challenges that are before me.

 I will be visiting Jenna’s grave for the first time tomorrow, and picking out a grave marker for the site. I am hoping for pink marble. I am hoping that the visit won’t be too hard. My mother in law and a good friend will be accompanying me.

Oh… and I will be going to another baby shower, for another little girl, on Sunday. I dearly want to bless my friend who is having the shower and she said she’d rather have me there, even if I am weepy, than have me stay away.  The last shower had some difficult moments. I’d appreciate some prayer to carry me through the next shower.

Finally, (looks like I didn’t have nothing much to say after all) my heartfelt thanks for all the faithful comments on my blog and the prayers you are sending my way. I read every comment (sometimes more than once 🙂 ) and your prayers mean sooooo much. God bless you!

Oh…last thing…I found another blog that really speaks to me. The details are different but I find Emily’s blog so real, and she expresses my own heart so eloquently. This is one of her archived posts on grieving:

By hearing or by seeing

Today is better than yesterday. I didn’t want to get up yesterday, and face another day without Jenna. It seemed easier just to sleep in. When I did get up, I walked around with a dull ache gripping my insides all day – Jenna is gone.

I knew from the beginning that the hardest part of the journey would be a few months into the thing, when other people’s lives pick up their normal routines again while mine is  changed forever. It takes a while for the reality of things to sink in too. Some days it still seems so unbelievable that Jenna won’t be coming back to us. We will go where she is, but it seems so long to wait.

Hubby has encouraged me to look up and rejoice that Jenna is with Jesus, and I do. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” he reminded me. Jenna is with Jesus and I will find her, not in the past, but in the present by looking to Jesus. It is all true, but as hubby himself concedes, there is a fine balance between living in the past and keeping memories alive. I am still trying to find that balance.

A friend wrote a song for hubby and I and sang it at church on Sunday. I will post the lyrics on my blog when I get them from her. It is called “Dancing in the light”, and talks about how sorrow lasts for a night but joy comes in the morning. We can lay our sorrows at the feet of Jesus and dance with joy – and I have had moments where this has been true. I danced spontaneously to the song in church on Sunday whilst my friend sang. It was a precious moment and once again, when I am in the presence of the Lord like that, I only know his peace.

It is the day to day wrestling with my soulish emotions and my very real and to-be-expected grief that is difficult. This is no easy road and I would be fooling myself if I thought it was.  Days like yesterday throw me into the arms of my Jesus though and I asked him yesterday to come and help me to grieve healthily, and to walk this path with me. 

I have done so much bible study on ‘the wilderness’ experience and ‘darkness’ and the place of suffering in our christian walk prior to all of this. (Some of the studies are in my blog archives.) I have the whole thing down in my head and I could preach sermons on it. I am sure that it has formed a bedrock of scriptural understanding in me, without which I would have been left floundering right now. It is easy though, to have an arm’s length understanding of a scriptural principle, and much harder to actually walk out that thing in real life. I know God is full of mercy. I know he knows what he is doing. I know that the plans he has for me are plans for good and not for evil, to give me a hope and an expected end full of his glory.  Yet it is hard to see beyond my own struggles at times.

I told the Lord last night that I feel a bit like Job, who said: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye seeth thee.”  My previous understanding of trails and suffering was a hearing-of-the-ear understanding. Now, however, I need to see Him in the midst of everything, and I believe I will. I believe I will come out of this with a far greater understanding, no, a knowing of his faithfulness and his presence that is with us even when we make our beds in hell. (Ps 139)