Backpacks

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30

 

When Hayley played volleyball,  she had to carry a cumbersome backpack around with her to all of her tournaments. In it she had her shoes, ankle braces, kneepads, snacks, volleyball, athletic tape, socks, drinks, and a billion other things.   On top of that, she was usually bringing a blanket because the tournaments were so early. Rarely was there a game that I didn't see her daddy take her backpack from her and carry it for her. She rarely complained. Before the game she knew she had a long day ahead of her and after the games she was exhausted. To not carry that bag was a relief to my girl and a sweet gesture from her loving father.

While playing volleyball, she herniated two discs in her back and was unable to carry anything heavier than a spiral notebook and a pencil for months. Though she's an independent girl, the fact that she had been willing to let someone carry her bag for her in the past made this heartbreaking transition easier. If during the good times she had not been in the practice of surrendering and accepting help, then when the tough times came, it would have been crippling. 

Lately I feel like I am carrying the weight of the world in my backpack. My shoulders are heavy from stress and worry but it doesn't have to be that way. My Father is there with me ready to carry it for me. I just need to stop being so prideful and let Him carry it for me. It's not too heavy for Him because He is stronger than I am. He is equipped to handle it. My shoulders weren't designed to carry that kind of weight.

When I give Him  my backpack of worries and stress, it feels good for a short time, but it soon starts to feel unnatural to not have that heaviness on me and I decide to take it back. "I can take it from here, God.  Thanks!"   I heard Beth Moore say in a podcast recently that instead of running to pick it up again, I have to replace it with expectation, saying, " I can't wait to see what you're going to do with that situation."   I guess that's what Jesus meant when he said, "Take  my yoke upon you."  You have to replace it with another yoke or you'll pick up your old one. If you take His, you will find rest for your soul." Wow. Rest?  I could use some of that. How about you?

You've Gotta Laugh A Little

After losing Matthew, God knew our whole family needed laughter and a lot of it.  Zane was the antidote.  Before he could talk, he was making us laugh with the expressions on his face or the predicaments he would get him self into.  Once he found his words, though, I can't tell you how many people have asked me if I'm writing down the things he's said because I could write a book on them.  Unfortunately, I didn't write most of them down, but one day for kicks, I went back through Facebook and took some of the funny things I'd posted that he'd said and wrote them down in my journal.  I thought I'd put them here, in case you need a smile today.  This boy can provide you with one any day.  

12/22/14 (3 years old)

Playing pirates, his pirates look to the sky and say, "Oh no! What ifs dat? I'm sca-owed! It's an angel.  Den dee angel said on dem, do not be afwayed.  I bwing you new uff gwate joy."  

5/10/15 (3 years old - Playing Batman with Brad)

Z: Oh no! Batman is sick!  Call an ambulance!  The paramedics will know what to do!

Later that day he picked up 2 toys that were identical and announced that one of them had been caught in a replicating machine.  

12/25/15 - (4 years old - When he got a second toy that he'd already received as a gift)

Z- "Look!  I got a duplicate!" 

1/8/16 (4 years old - saying prayers)

Z- God, hurry up... get my hell outta here!  The only way for me to marry girlfriend Chloe is to get my hell outta here. 

1/12/16 (4 years old - waking up for school)

Z - I want to stay here in bed!  This is the only place I can be myself. 

2/23/16 (as we sat down together at a restaurant)

Z- Isn't it nice to have the whole family together? 

(Later, watching Good Dinosaur and sees a shooting star)

Z - I didn't know stars could fly.

Me - Yeah, they're called shooting stars.  

Z -  Is it kind of like a meteor?

Me - ... Yes... Yes it is...

5/26/16 (4 years old)

Z- I love you more than Pete

Me - Who is Pete?

Z - You know, for the love of Pete!

7/5/16 (4 years old)

Z - Mom, can you get me some pants?  I accidentally got some pee on my deviously charming pants.

later that day, playing ABC Mouse

Z - Mom, I'm making excellent progress.  Aren't you impressed?

8/14/16 (4 years old)

Me - Good morning doll face

Z - Good morning whale face.

Me - Why did you call me that?

Z - Because you called me dolphin face.  

11/6/16 (5 years old)

Z - Christmas is right around the corner?

Me - Yup

Z - Can we more our house around the corner?

1/12/17 - (5 years old - Waking him up for school, the dog jumped on the bed)

Z - Shelby, get off me! Can't you see I'm dreaming?

 4/16/17 (5 years old)

Z: Mia, never put giant underwear on toxic gas. It's weird and dangerous.  

Mia: ... 

5/17/17(5 years old)

Z - Mom, when I'm grown up, do I get to say bad words like you?

later

Z - Mom, can you cancel my 12 o'clock?

later

Z - Mom, my charms never end.  You know what that means?  It means I'm full of curiosity.  

5/20/17 (5 years old - as he has to get up and get dressed for church)

Z - Mom, I've lost my joy.  The joy fell right out of headquarters.  

5/23/17 (5 years old - his career goals)

1. Snake Killer  (Hazel (the dog) will be his "Honorary Bull Dog")

2. Sheps Chef

3. NOT a teacher - "because teacher stuff is BO-RING!"

4. A robot maker and Hayley is going to be his boss who tells him how to make the robots. 

5. A mad scientist and Hayley will be his boss for this, too.  

6/17/17 (5 years old)

Z - You should never eat a baby, wanna know why?

Me - Ummm, why?

Z - It could grow up to be your friend someday!

6/19/17(5 years old)

Me - Go put on your pajamas.

Z - Pajamas aren't very cool, with all due respect.  

7/6/17 (5 years old) 

Z - Mom, I love you. You never smell like a skunk.  

7/10/17 (5 years old) 

Z- I'm tired of this savagery!  

7/16/17 (5 years old) 

-Out of nowhere-

Z- The elemental masters have never seen the likes of the anacondrai.

---------- later------- 

Z- Did you know the deep sea divers died in the bathtub?

Family- how did they die (expecting him they drowned) 

Z- they were shot.  

---------- 

I'll keep adding to this, just for my own records, and so as people ask me if I'm writing this stuff down, I can finally say YES! :) 

Everyday is an adventure with Zane.  You can be sure that something he is going to say will keep you laughing for awhile.  Not everyone gets him.  Not everyone can stand his incessant chatter.  I'll be honest, it will wear you out.  I have felt that they could put him in interrogation rooms sometimes and the suspect would just confess to get a break from the noise.  A lot of the time, I don't even know what in the world he's talking about.  He talks about YouTube videos I've never seen, or games I've never played, and characters I've never heard of.  His spirit is bright though.  He loves people.  He loves words.  He loves to perform.  I hope nobody squelches that.  I hope he is always able to stand strong in who he is and isn't held down by what society says children are supposed to be.  

 

Me As A Tree

When Matthew died, we received a tree as a gift for him from a friend.  She said she was driving down the road and God told her, plain as day, to go to the store and buy us a tree.  She didn't understand why, but at that very moment, she turned her car around and bought us a tree.  A couple of hours later, my friend stood at my door with a tree she pulled from the back of her minivan.  She looked a little embarrassed and confused.  As she said, "I don't know why, but God told me to bring you this."  It was so strange, we told her, because we had just been talking about buying a tree to plant in the backyard in his memory.  

We planted Matthew's tree and I was so eager to watch it grow tall and strong.  I was devastated the day I looked in the backyard and discovered that our puppy had destroyed the tree, basically chewing it down to the ground.  It was like a punch to the gut.  Matthew’s tree, his memorial tree, was destroyed. 

It was fitting, really, I thought.  Quite symbolic.  Much like that tree, I felt as if I'd been cut down to my core.  I felt like I'd never be the same again.  I could relate to that poor little tree.  

The next spring, I was pregnant again.  I wasn't back to normal, but I was better than I had been the past fall.  My husband came into the house from doing yardwork looking with an amused yet astonished look on his face.  He let me know that the tree that we had assumed was dead had started showing signs of new life.  It was growing from the ground once again after it had been destroyed.  I had an appreciation for this tenacious little tree and felt a strange connection to it.  We were living parallel lives.  

Each day, each month, each season, the tree grew a little taller, a little stronger.  It wasn't a quick, easy process, however.  The dark winter freezes did their best to kill the small tree.  The torrential spring rains pounded at its weak frame, yet somehow, it managed to stay upright.  It had taken up strong roots during those days when we had thought it was dead.  It wasn't dying.  It was being restored, preparing for these hard days ahead that were sure to come.  God knew what this tree would face and He prepared it accordingly.  

Today, nearly seven years later, this tree stands nearly ten feet tall.  It’s not a giant, strong tree but it grows tall and proud, overcoming great obstacles.  It went through some hard times and it still doesn't stand looking as majestic as I'm sure it someday will, but it has survived.  It has never looked healthier or stronger.  I know it is rooted and grounded against what may try to take it down.  It can withstand puppy attacks, strong winds and cold winters now without fear.  It only has to focus now on spreading its branches and expanding its influence so that others may seek refuge in its branches.  It is ready for that step now.  

Yes.  I can relate to my Matthew's tree and I'm so thankful that Kerry listened to God when He asked her to put a small tree in the back of her minivan in September of 2010.  

 

Matthew's Tree 

Because I Knew You

Matthew’s life and his death changed me.  For the first six years, I would have told you that his death changed me for the worse.  I was a shell of who I had been.  The sadness had overtaken me.  Even though I had so much to live for, I was still so lost.   I quickly moved forward having another son and tried to carry on, but in doing so I had pushed my feelings about him aside.  I thought I was dealing with the loss, but I was merely trying to make myself feel as if nothing was wrong.  People wanted me to be okay and since I'm always wanting to please, I tried to be.  

 I was distracted with Zane, I had Brad and the girls.  I stayed busy at work, even forcing myself to go back to my job only weeks after Matthew’s funeral.  I had no idea that I was doing everything in my power to stuff those feelings down so I wouldn’t have to feel them. They don’t just go away, however.  They will find their way out, one way or another.  

This year, when I started talking to women about their losses by sharing my own story, it was the beginning of my own healing, as well.  It was Matthew’s strength inside of me that gave me the courage to move forward.  With Matthew, I was able to reach out to other women who had lost children and offer them a listening ear.  I’m usually the type of person who would keep to myself and assume that the grieving mother would have their own support system and assume my attempt would most likely be rejected anyway, so why bother? Instead, I’ve found a boldness to reach out to acquaintances and perfect strangers suffering loss when I feel led.   

God had allowed Matthew’s song to whisper to my soul and remind me what it’s like to feel all alone. His song has awakened something new inside of me.  My soul sings again.  I’m aware of the beauty in the world around me, beauty I hadn’t seen for years even before his death.  I feel like someone who has put on glasses for the first time and can finally see clearly.  I’m in awe of all that I’ve been missing.  

For years after Zane was born, I had an inner struggle.  I knew that Zane and Matthew couldn’t coexist because they were born so close together.  Some days when I looked at Zane with such love and appreciation, I felt guilty because it made me feel like I was glad Matthew wasn’t here.  I know now that Matthew brought so much more into my life than I ever knew. He brought me back to life once I stopped fighting the emotions that accompanied his death.  

In the musical, Wicked, there is a song called “For Good” with the lyrics,

“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better,
because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

I have no doubt now that because I knew Matthew, I have been changed for good.  

Even a year ago I would have told you that you were crazy if you told me God would bring anything good out of the worst thing that had ever happened to me, but He took this tragedy and has used it to bring me back to life.  I owe him my joy, I owe him my life, I owe him my everything.  He brought back a new meaning and purpose to my life that I would have never known or imagined possible had Matthew never been born.  Though I don't like the circumstances that brought me here, I am forever indebted to my son, Matthew, for saving me from my unbeknownst demise.  

(Not So) Merry-Go-Round

We Smile

We Smile

We go through the same steps

We go through the same steps

Day after day

Day after day

We do laundry

We do laundry

That never Ends

Because we are blessed to have people to dress

We work, day after day

         We work, day after day

For money that always runs out

For the sweet, smiling faces in our home

We try to please people

We try to please people

Who will never be happy

Because God loves us and we want to share our joy

We eat nothing

We eat

Yet we gain weight

And have leftovers to share

We workout

We workout

But we see no results

And are blessed to have our health

We hold our children tight

We hold our children tight

Yet they still grow up

And are fortunate enough to watch them grow up

They still fall down

To pick them up when they fall

They still hurt

To hold them when they're hurt

They still cry

To wipe their tears from their cheeks

And we can't stop it

and we can help them

We can't stop this Merry-Go-Round

We can't stop this Merry-Go-Round

From spinning

From spinning

I want off

But I wouldn't want off

I'm green

Not for a minute

I'm dizzy

I see the smiles

I'm not having fun

I hear the laughter

I don't see the point

I see the point

I hate this Merry-Go-Round

I love this Merry-Go-Round

Yet still,

And still

We smile.

We smile

This was what I wrote on a particularly bad day. A few people were worried about me. I wasn't suicidal or anything, I was just feeling so defeated, wondering, "what is the point? "

This was what I wrote on a particularly bad day. A few people were worried about me. I wasn't suicidal or anything, I was just feeling so defeated, wondering, "what is the point? "

Two days later, I had taken a day off work because I was still not in a very good head space. I had an appointment anyways, and I just needed a day to myself, so I took the day.  After my appointment, I went to a local coffee shop, had some music blaring in my headphones, and wrote this part as I prayed for a new perspective. 

Two days later, I had taken a day off work because I was still not in a very good head space. I had an appointment anyways, and I just needed a day to myself, so I took the day.  After my appointment, I went to a local coffee shop, had some music blaring in my headphones, and wrote this part as I prayed for a new perspective. 

After that, I wrote this version, which cleaned up some of the cussing, but also took out some of the angst I was feeling, which is why I went ahead and added the other versions.

After that, I wrote this version, which cleaned up some of the cussing, but also took out some of the angst I was feeling, which is why I went ahead and added the other versions.

Beauty Will Rise

I'm at camp this week with my class. As we arrived yesterday, and I was walking to my cabin, this flower was the first thing I saw, and it literally stopped me in my tracks. I didn't know why. I thought about taking a picture of it, but I didn't. I took a mental note of it, but I just kept walking.  

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As we went through the day, everywhere I looked, my eye was drawn to pretty flowers, growing out of the dirt, out of the ugly, rocky soil, with no other flowers around. There was just the ugly ground and the beautiful flower emerging from it. I had spent the morning grading wildflower projects. I heard our camp guide and my co-teacher talk about pressing flowers. I listened as the kids identified flowers they recognized from their research. I was definitely seeing a pattern, and hearing God whisper, but what He was saying I wasn't so sure.  

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This morning, at 6:00, when the alarm went off, my eyes popped open and I knew. I was the wildflower. What was that supposed to mean? God had some words for me if I would be still and hear them. When I was finally still, this is what He revealed to me. 

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There is a difference between surviving and being a survivor. You are a survivor. You're a fighter.   You have deep roots like a wildflower. To survive out of your element...where others haven't endured...you have to be different. You are stronger than you think. You have endured when others would have been (and have been) blown away. You're still here. You're still here and still standing. The rain pounded hard against you and the wind blew with all its might. You stayed beneath the ground for a long time because you just weren't yet ready to emerge. You didn't know what was happening to you in the darkness. You felt the pain and you thought it was weakness, but you were wrong.

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In your weakness, you were being made strong. You were growing. Growth hurts but it is necessary. You can't see it happening, but you can feel it. It's such a small amount at a time that it feels like nothing at all, but when you look back to where you were a week ago, a month ago, six months ago, you'll be amazed at how far you've come.

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Then, one day, something happens. You see sunlight. It's not so dark anymore. You're not quite ready to face the world and all of its cruelty completely yet, but you're getting there. You're taking those small steps forward. Every day, minute by minute, you're getting stronger. Despite the pain, despite how slow you feel it's going, you're growing, getting stronger and you are becoming something beautiful that you can't yet imagine.

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Finally, one day you will stand with your head held high, growing taller still, your face shining in the light of the Son and His beauty will make people stop and stare. They will marvel at how magnificent God is and how He redeemed you. He took you...broken...wounded...a remnant of who you had been and restored you. You fought your way back when others wouldn't even try. When others were overcome by the darkness or blown away by the wind and storms due to weak roots, you stood strong. You persevered. You trusted in your maker. You didn't quit and look at you now.

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Gathering Hope

Anniversaries are hard. The first ones are awful, and you might assume they'd be the worst. In many ways they are, but in other ways, they aren't at all. The further I get away from Matthew's birth/death day, the harder it gets for me because while it feels like everyone else has forgotten him, I haven't. Most other people only remember the day if I remind them...which I'm loathe to do. Consequently, my choice to not tell anyone causes me to grieve alone, much as I did last year because I was too stubborn to tell anyone. I wanted them to remember on their own.

The other option is to ask for support on that day. Find some people you enjoy and spend the day celebrating their life, your life and just life in general. I hope that's what I will do this year. 

Today is an anniversary for my friend Peyton. Three years ago, she lost her son James shortly after his birth. She is strong, beautiful and inspiring in sharing his story and encouraging others to look for hope in their own grief. 

Only eighteen months after losing James, she put on an awesome event called Gathering Hope: An Evening of Love and Remembrance. Eighteen months, y'all! It has taken me nearly 7 years to share Matthew's story. I can't fathom the amount of strength it took to do that. 

I feel honored that Peyton has trusted me enough to ask me to help her put on Gathering Hope 2017. Today, on James Lauderdale's 3rd birthday, we honor his too short life, as well as all of the other babies taken too soon, by inviting you to sign up for this event which will occur October 22 in Aledo, TX. 

If you've suffered from the heartache of a childloss, be it a miscarriage or the loss of an infant, we invite you to come join us for a night of love and remembrance with other mamas and grandmas who have been there. 

Our goal is for you to feel unconditionally loved, understood, and free to talk about your child/children in a judgment free zone for the evening. Hear messages of truth, wisdom, and hope poured out from women who have been where you are and feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.

That is our hope as we gather this October. Space is limited, so sign up as soon as you can!

All My Love ~ 

Carol

 

With Hope

Though it sucks, I had to get to a point in my life where I had to acknowledge that Matthew is okay where he is.  He's actually much better than okay.  He's much better than I am.  He's happy, and he'd want the same thing for me.  I couldn't continue living my life pining for what should have been, because in the midst of that, I was missing what was.  I was missing my girls and Brad, and eventually Zane who was right here, still needing me to be present in their lives.  With prayer, great family and friends, and a little help from my pal Zoloft, I was able to move forward with my life, believing the lyrics of the song we played at Matthew's funeral.  

And we can cry with hope
We can say good-bye with hope
'Cause we know our good-bye is not the end
And we can grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
There's a place where we'll see your face again

It's not betraying your child to move on with your life.  It's not betraying your child to be happy and to laugh again.  It's honoring to them.  I urge you to remember your baby.  I urge you to talk about them and keep their memory alive in your home.  There is a beautiful, delicate balance to remembering without dwelling and it takes time.  Some days are harder than others and like my friend said yesterday, it feels like you've been hit by a truck. It will hit you out of nowhere.  On those days, you just have to grieve.  Lean into your grief and sit with it.  

Last year, on Matthew's birthday, we had a church event for our new church plant.  I just couldn't go.  It was going to be a fun family event and I wanted no part in it.  I wanted my family to go to the family fun day without me, while I sat home, by myself, looking through my memory box of Matthew's things and listened to my Matthew playlist.  I had a big pity party.  I wanted somebody to come and feel sorry for me, with me, but I didn't know who that would be or how they could really help, so I literally sat in my room, in the dark, all day.  I didn't even remind my husband it was his birthday because I wanted him to just remember on his own.  He had so many irons in the fire that day because of the event, which were probably multiplied because I wouldn't go to church, so he had to keep up with the kids on top of it all.  He had no idea why I was acting like I was, and I didn't feel like I should have to tell him.  These days are fewer and further in between now, but when they come, I'm blindsided.

The good news is that you get to a point where you have more good days than bad days, and you have to be okay with that.  It is the way it should be.  It's a good thing.  If you've suffered a loss recently, the thought that everything will be okay might not make you feel better.  I remember being annoyed with any thoughts of hope.  I didn't want to feel hopeful.  I knew there was no hope and I didn't want anyone to try to bring me any.  Slowly, as I got further from his birth, I started craving a little hope.  Now I want to give it, when you're ready to hear it.  

It's so important to remember our babies.  Don't push your feelings aside.  Grieve, for goodness sake.  It's so important.  Grieve deeply. You deserve it, your baby deserves it, and you need it.  Don't let anyone tell you differently.  Take all the time you need for it.  Even when you think you're better, and it hits you like a monster truck, let it flow. If you need someone to grieve with you and you don't know who, we've started an online support group on Facebook, called the Sucky Sisterhood.(https://www.facebook.com/groups/195983184223155/) Anyone on that page would understand where you are and can empathize with you, if that's what you need.  

Eventually, though, when you're ready, take the steps to keep living.  Just because your baby didn't make it, doesn't mean that you can't.  We go on with hope.  "We wait with hope, And we ache with hope, We hold on with hope, We let go with hope."