Saturday, January 29

:: The beach & a new friend ::

As I was watching this sunset at the beach I couldn't help but think about Olivia. She's up there somewhere beyond the clouds. Every time I feel a warm ray of sunshine or hear our wind chime I feel her presence. As Parrish said to me yesterday, she is always in our hearts.

My friend Shannon wrote a beautiful poem for us called "Olivia's Light." It came to mind so many times at the beach.

Olivia's Light

Oh, little one
Come and share your light
Shine down from heaven above

What joy to behold
A beacon so bright
A symbol of God's own love

Oh, beautiful star
Such a brilliant sight
Like sunshine in the rain

A love so strong
That all can see
With hearts too big to tame

Oh, time on earth
How fleeting still
For a year is as a day

Yet Olivia's Light
Will be our guide
So we can find our way

When we returned from vacation I had the pleasure of meeting a new friend. Unfortunately, she lost her 1 year old son 18 years ago but she was so helpful to talk with. She gave me hope that there will be happy days and joy in our lives again. We will never forget, there will always be someone missing in our family, but there is still reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know that Lee and I will remain friends and I am glad to know I can call on her with questions and frustrations.

Looking at the picture above of my 2 guys on the beach I just feel the need to say that there is not another man on earth I could go through this with! We are a team. Of course it has been hard and we've had our ups and downs (and will continue to), but we are closer for it. As for Parrish, just having him close to me makes me feel better. His dimples and grin light up my world. I am so thankful that I have these wonderful "men" in my life!

I am also thankful for our Savior. I am thankful that He lets me be mad at him and scream out to Him in heaven for allowing this to happen to us. He doesn't care if I am praising Him or questioning Him...He still loves me. And as Cannon had to remind me today when I was really struggling...He is rocking our baby and caring for her until we can get to her in heaven. There aren't many places better for a baby than in their mother's arms, but I have a feeling being cuddled in Jesus arms is one of them.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”(Galatians 2:20 KJV)

Friday, January 28

:: Olivia's 1st Birthday ::

We celebrated what would have been Olivia's first birthday on January 21st with close friends and family. I was unsure how I would feel that day and if I would regret planning a celebration, but I have to say that I am so glad we did it. For starters, it gave me something to focus on during an otherwise terrible day, which made it pass faster. It also warmed my heart to feel like we were doing something to remember her and honor her on her special day. We sang happy birthday to her at her gravesite, our friend Jeff said such a touching prayer that we appreciated so much and then we released pink (polka dot, of course) balloons to Livy in heaven. I had a moment of hesitation as I was releasing the balloons-for some reason it felt so final, and I guess that's because it is. It felt like I was letting her go all over again, but I am discovering that happens to me over and over.

After the cemetery we came back to the house and had dinner and strawberry cupcakes. My sweet friend Courtney made all of the adorable decorations and cupcake toppers (thanks, girl!) and it was so good to be surrounded my supportive family and friends, some of which had never met each other.
A special thank you to my friend Terri for taking these pictures as well. It is never any fun to be the one behind the camera viewing the events through a lens, but I will be forever grateful to her for the memories she captured for us on film. Flipping through the web album she sent me I couldn't help but think that they captured the event perfectly-the emotions, the story, everything. Thank you!!

After all the birthdays we hit the road to our friend's beach house in Seacrest to unwind, refocus and decompress. It was the first trip we have taken since we lost Olivia and there were sad times but more happy times and for that I am thankful. It was so good to be in the Florida sun. We rode bikes, played on the beach, ate out and watched movies and read books. Thank you, Gonzalez family! I will post a few pictures from our trip in a separate blog entry.

Wednesday, January 19

:: Birds & Birthdays ::

In my last post I mentioned the bird motif on this blog and that birds are a special reminder of Olivia to me. That's because God sent me a bird in the weeks following Olivia's death. It was an answer to a prayer I prayed daily-that God would just send me a sign, anything, to let me know that my baby girl was safe with him in heaven. I can remember praying, "Dear Lord, I know true faith doesn't require signs, but please, I have to see your hand in this. I have to know you are in control and my sweet baby girl is safe and sound in your arms." That afternoon I was trying to watch my first mindless bit of reality television when a bird started chirping so loud it kept me from hearing the television. I would turn it up and it seemed like the bird would just get louder. A bird that loud cannot be ignored, so I paused my show and went to the window. While I was looking for the bird I told God that I would take it as my sign if I could just see the loud bird. Well, I looked and looked and could not find it in the trees or shrubs or grass, so I returned to my show and not 2 minutes later the bird started up again. Annoyed now, I went to the window thinking, I just want to forget about my life for 30 minutes and this bird will not be quiet! So I go to the window and crane my neck in the direction of our front door and there sat the bird, perched on top of the wire topiary in my flower urn. Our eyes locked and I have no idea how long I stood staring at him. Cars parked across the street, kids ran by, doors slammed and the bird didn't budge. I know that God sent him just for me. The bird came back at the same time every evening for a week and I haven't seen him since. I wish I had thought to snap a picture to show you.

Parrish had his 4th bday party on January 15th and it was so nice to have something to look forward to. He had a great time hunting treasure, escaping to the fort turned pirate ship, roasting hot dogs and eating cake! He has had such a hard time since his "Sissy" passed away and I am thankful that the party was something he could be excited about. Please pray for his heart and spirit-he is so sad that his baby is not here to play with and protect anymore. The other night we were laying in bed reading a Charlie Brown Christmas Story (yes, it was January, but he didn't care) and at the end I sang the words to "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and he said, "Mommy, that's Livia's song." He is like that-so thoughtful and attentive to detail. Then he said, "Mommy, Sissy is happy in heaven because angels are rocking her, but I hope they don't put her down on the hard floor with other kids because she might hurt her knees or get stepped on by the bigger kids." He is always worrying about her in heaven. Whether she is hot or cold, who will feed her a bottle, etc. He has a heart of gold and is such a great big brother. I can't believe he is already 4 years old!

Since Olivia would have turned one tomorrow we are having close friends and family to her gravesite to release pink balloons to her in heaven, then hosting a casual dinner and cupcakes at our home afterward. I had a mini break-down tonight that I was arranging flowers and decorating for a party she wouldn't be attending, so I am hoping tomorrow will be better than today. At least maybe there will be as much joy as there is sadness as we celebrate the 9 months we got to spend with our baby girl. I am putting her little first birthday hat and outfit out on the foyer table. Being OCD, I had ordered them months ago and they arrived the week she died-talk about a shock. Anyway, my sweet friend Courtney is so creative and she had already made invitations, cupcake toppers and banners, so we had everything we needed for Olivia's "cute as a button" party. I will post pictures of the event soon but please remember my precious baby girl tomorrow and pray for us as we endure another terrible 1st without Olivia.

"Hope does not necessarily take the form of excessive confidence; rather, it involves the simple willingness to take the next step." -Stanley Hauerwas

Tuesday, January 11

The best (and worst) from our nest

I started this blog shortly after we had our second child Olivia with the intention of posting home design ideas. As you can see by my measly 2 posts prior to this one, life as mommy to a 3 year old and a newborn interfered with that plan. Only now, after loosing our 9 month old baby girl to SIDS, do I know to be THANKFUL that I didn't have the time to blog back then and that "The Best From Our Nest" would be about the most inappropriate name for my blog ever. But because it was already up and running, I am going with it. That and the fact that the bird motif has such a special meaning to me (more on that tomorrow).

Until this tragedy happened to us I never really gave that much thought to human loss. I assumed, like most people, that I would have my entire lifetime with my babies because that is the way it is SUPPOSED to be. I would often say to people who told me of tragedies, "I could never survive that." And until Olivia died I didn't think I could survive without her. But after she passed away I remember thinking-either I trust in Jesus or I don't. And it has amazed me that in the midst of my grief the Lord has met me right where I am-full of all the whys and what-ifs-and comforted me and revealed himself to me more than I ever thought possible. I used to pray that the Lord would give me a hunger for His word like I knew I should have. Since Olivia went home to be with Jesus I have devoured the bible like never before because I want to personally know the man who is holding my baby girl in heaven. I have to KNOW that I believe what the bible says-not just THINK I do. But after I realized that it has taken something as life shattering as the loss of a child to crave God's word I have shouted out to God--"No! Not this way! This is not what I meant. It wasn't worth loosing my baby girl over. Couldn't you have taught me to love you completely some other way?" The answer of course is yes, He could have. But the fact I have to live with is that He didn't and I may never understand why. But I have a choice to make. I can either wallow in self-pity and despair or choose to try to have some happy moments and look for the good that is coming from this and not the bad. That is easier said than done. I am still in the pit of despair and often think I will always be. This doesn't seem like something I will ever get through and so often it feels like a betrayal to Olivia if I laugh or smile or forget that she's not here for just a second. But the truth is that I know that Livy would want me to be happy and I want her to be proud of her mommy when I see her again in heaven one day. I want to learn to live again for Olivia and Parrish. It would be so easy to just throw in the towel-but I want Parrish to look back on this dark time one day and be grateful that we didn't give up. That we fought hard against Satan's thoughts and lies and refused to let him win. I also want to ask you to please continue to pray for our family. Sometimes it seems as if the more time that passes, the harder it gets without Olivia. We so desperately want to have something to be hopeful for in the new year. So far though, we have only rec'd more bad news. Parrish is going to have to have surgery on his foot (most likely this spring). He was born with a bone deformity that was at first thought to be just a slight curve or turning in of his foot because of the way he was positioned in the womb. After a year of wearing corrective shoes at night without success, the doctor started monitoring his feet with x rays every six month. Apparently, bones do not appear in x rays until children are older so there was no way until 6 months ago to tell if there was a deformity or not. Unfortunately, a deformity was discovered and Parrish was diagnosed with "skew foot." Although this minor deformity does not currently hinder him from running, jumping and playing, the older he has gotten the more he has complained of pain in his foot and finding a shoe that will correctly and comfortably fit him has been a challenge which will only continue to get worse as his bones grow and stiffen. This condition will eventually require surgery in which he will be in a full leg cast and wheelchair and have to go under anesthesia three different times for cast changes over the course of about 10 weeks. About a month after Olivia passed on November 6, 2010 we had a previously scheduled 6 month check-up for Parrish. Every other time we had gone the doctor had said Parrish's bones were too small for the surgery and there was no rush. So of course, when we went back in for this check-up we were hoping and expecting to hear the same. But wouldn't you just know it? After reviewing Parrish's xrays, he suggested that we do the surgery as soon as possible and absolutely no later than September or he may have to do more in surgery to correct the damage. Seriously? Are you kidding me? Why do the hits just keep on coming? I could barely breathe as we told the doctor of our recent loss and tried to figure out what we were going to do. The thought of putting my son under only months after loosing my daughter was too much. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Why do we have to make this decision now? The fact is, we still don't know what we are going to do. We know he needs the surgery, but we don't want him to have to have it now. We are scared something is going to go wrong one of the 3 times he has to be under anesthesia and we are scared that with our mental state we are not going to be able to do all that is going to be required to care for him after the surgery. It is going to take a lot of emotional and physical strength to nurse him back to health. Somehow we are supposed to keep him on the couch and not moving for the 2 weeks immediately following the surgery. Friends and family who know Parrish and his spunky, energetic self know that this is not going to be an easy feat. Also, we have no guest room on the main floor and I can't carry him up and down the stairs, so we are going to have to prepare a makeshift bedroom for him on the first floor. Just thinking about all the challenges and decisions that we are being faced with exhausts me. My reason for sharing all of this is to ask for your prayers. We need God's wisdom in making the decision about when to have the surgery and what to do afterward. We need friends to faithfully ask that God grant that Parrish will come through this with flying colors and that all of our worries will have been for nothing. I listened to a bible study on grief by Kelly Buck of Briarwood Pres Church yesterday and she quoted Sittser, who wrote the book, "A Grace Disguised." In his book he writes of the "terror of randomness" and how out of control we would feel if we believed everything was the result of random acts and how freeing it is to know that God is ultimately in control over everything and is working to knit together a far bigger and better plan than we can ever imagine (Jeremiah 29:11), so much so that when it is finally revealed to us we will be able to look back on our darkest hours and laugh. I can't imagine ever being able to do that. But in God, I have the hope that one day I will. Because on that day I will be standing with my baby girl in the presence of Jesus and all will be right in the world.