Sunday, December 21, 2014

On this Christmas...

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, 
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head. 
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, 
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay. T

he cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes, 
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
 I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky 
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh. 

 Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay 
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray; 
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, 
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.


I love Christmas. (If you know me or have read this blog for awhile, you know this to be true.) The lights. The glitter. The movies. The music...oh the music! But every year certain aspects of it stick out to me more than others do in the years past. For example, this year, I love the hunter green and gold color combination for decorations. I think snowmen are really cute. Songs that make me smile this year are "A Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Silver and Gold" by Burl Ives.

But most of all this year, I'm struck by the Christmas story from a mother's perspective. It truly is magical that Jesus sent his son in the form of a baby. I'm also captivated by the mention of angels. I read somewhere that when children go to heaven they become angels. I'm not sure if this is Biblicall, and I'll need to research it some more. Either way, this year I have thought a LOT about what Gabriel did or where he came from. The Bible doesn't tell us much about him. We know that he was a messenger for God, but WHAT A MESSAGE. "Do not be afraid for unto you a Savior is born!" How did he get to be an angel? How was he picked to tell the world that we didn't have to be afraid anymore?? But even more significant that that, how did he get picked to tell us that we have been saved??!?

I must be frank and say that if this theory is true, I've wondered what kind of work, my Lily has been commissioned to do.

This Christmas is hard. We had so many plans for this year and they didn't come to fruition the way we thought they should. We are still making peace with that. Lately, I find myself thinking about her funeral and being in the hospital. I'm afraid I'm going to forget how it all happened. I lay awake at night and think about all the people that were there and what they said about us, about our sweet girl. Like Mary, I cherish all these things in my heart. Our stories are very different to say the least. But we were both present at the death of our children. I take comfort in the fact that loss of a child no matter how old is part of the story line of the most important story ever told. I find even greater comfort that Mary's little boy rose again so that I might see my little girl again shortly after I see Him.

On this Christmas, I hope you know Jesus was born in Bethlehem to save us all.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, November 21, 2014

On where I've been...

So. Halloween sucked big hairy balls. (I'm sorry mom.) But it did. I didn't think it would. I've honestly never cared about the holiday all that much. Now that I'm on the "parental" side of things though, I kinda was looking forward to this year. I realized that when I spent Halloween and the day after in tears.

I've spent the past couple of weeks recovering and trying my best to prepare for the upcoming holidays. I have never wished for January or appreciated January in my life. But circumstances can do that to a girl sometimes. I'm very much a respect the bird kinda girl this year only because putting up Christmas decorations makes me sad. I also have pumped the brakes on social media A LOT lately. It's just something that helps me not be so sad.

(Note: I don't say this crap to make y'all feel sorry for me. It's just where I am right now. I am posting it for the simple fact that life won't always be like this. I want to look back and see how far I've come.)

I've also decided to not take the bar until the summer time. I need to clear my head as best I can. The best way I can describe my grief right now is a cloud of fogginess. I am always always always thinking about Lily in the back of my mind. I just am. Sometimes it is directly, and others indirectly. But the fog is always there. Some days, I can see through it and it almost seems to clear. Other days, it's so thick that I pretty much just have to pray for Jesus to help me get through it.

BUT. Having said that, I still want and feel a calling on my life to be an attorney. The responsibilities that come with that are serious and I don't want to do anything to jeopardize that or be in a situation where the responsibility becomes a burden.

The other area that we are waiting on is more babies. I know a lot of women that started trying pretty much as soon as the doctor said they could. But I know myself. I know that I'll worry from start to finish once the stick turns pink. So in order to not have that going on in the back of my mind while I am trying to study for the bar next summer, we are waiting for babies as well.

(Note: I say this as politely as possible, but if you disagree, please keep it to yourself. It's not your life or your future babies or career at stake. It's mine.)

So what else is going on lately? I've been doing Believing God by Beth Moore and LOVE IT! I've never experienced a place like this in my faith. I don't think that's a coincidence either.

ANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNND the most fun news is that I'm working for Old Navy now. I'll have everyone know that I've worked three times now and I haven't shopped yet! That's some serious self-restraint on my part if you're new around here. IF you're not new, then I just scored for the home team!

I hope this finds you well.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

On road trips...

To my dearest Lily,

You've been gone for three months as of today. It snuck up on me actually. Last week sucked royally with Halloween. It was the first major holiday and I pretty much had to hide from social media. All the babies that you were supposed to grow up with had cute costumes and I thought about how I promised your daddy that you could be Princess Leia or Yoda depending upon gender. You would have been Princess Leia obviously.

But I remembered when I read a blog post today by a momma that lost a baby girl named Ruby earlier this year. Anyway, she's pregnant again and it was weird for her because Ruby wasn't there. I imagine I will have similar feelings myself when I find out I'm pregnant again. But then, I started reading her past posts to see if she had felt the way I had felt in the past few months after losing you.

She had.

She also talked about how long it had been when they found out about their second baby. It was three months to the day and then it clicked for me that today was the 6th.  It explained why I was up at the crack of dawn this morning and couldn't really sleep until 9 again. Your daddy couldn't sleep either.

She talked about being around strangers and people she knew and them all acting normal. It's weird because I remember being in public and wondering if people could tell I had just had a baby since you weren't with me a couple of months ago at your AL and Uncle Will's first football game. Even though I knew that was your fate, it still was a shock to lose you all the same. Did I look normal? Or did I look sad?

She also talked about how now she and Ruby's daddy had a more compassionate view for the world since they had faced death. It made me think of Harry Potter being able to see the thestrals for the first time because he has faced death in the face. His world view added something he had never seen before. Ours as well. It's disconcerting at times even if we don't show it. The world isn't the place it used to be for me.

Ellen DeGeneres says every day at the end of her show, "Be kind to one another." Plato said it this way, "Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

And Lil, it's so true. You just never know who is struggling. Like I said earlier in the week, how I was struck by the fact that this is the first time the ministry has been online. This is also the first time people have seen mommas like me grieving online too. For some I would imagine it is hard to watch. It might even make them uncomfortable. It used to make me uncomfortable quite frankly. But here's the deal, this blog post isn't for the people who haven't sat in my place. It's for the ones who have. So they can see someone else talk to their baby and feel normal because it's all they want to do too. Not everyone feels that way. Grieving is certainly different for everyone. But my point is that there is solace in knowing others feel the way I do about you. It's why I'm writing to you now. I am struggling with moving forward. There is a part of me that wants to be done with this year, but then I'm stuck with the fact that once I get through those tough spots, it's that much longer that it has been since I've seen you and held you. But I know that I need to get it out, to help me process. So I'm writing about grieving, about you, about what life is like for us now.

The part that struck me most from Ruby's momma's blog was where I read where Ruby's daddy wanted to go on a road trip. He knew he wanted to do that while they were in the hospital.

I didn't realize I wanted a road trip until this week. It's like my daddy, your Pop/Pappaw (we never really decided because once we found out you were sick, it was too hard to talk about) says, the road is calling me. I know that once I get out there I will still think about you. I'm always thinking about you. I told your daddy that right now I feel like I can only do one thing at a time because I'm already thinking about you. So I'm in essence multi-tasking all the time. I just figure being on the road would allow me time to just think without Gilmore Girls or whatever I've decided to distract myself with for the time being out of the way. That maybe somehow, I will find some peace and also see you in the ways I see you now that you're not here anymore.

I know you're in heaven, but I don't know what you're doing. I hope that you let me know you see me today. I love you and miss you desperately, Lil. Your daddy does too.

Momma

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On the first good rainy day of fall...

It's really quiet in my house right now. Brandon is at work and a load of laundry has just finished up in the dryer. I'm sitting at my desk right now. I was working on a Bible study, but I stopped for a bit.

I stopped because as I stared out the window while I was thinking about something from the Bible study, I realized today is the first wet rainy day of fall. There have been a few glimpses of a day like today, but not a good full on rainy day until now.

Normally, on this first good rainy day, I take a nice hot shower. Then I put on a pair of my favorite warm socks, my best sweats, a good tshirt, and a hoodie. I fix myself a bowl of soup or popcorn if I didn't have chicken chili ready to go. I'd find my favorite blankets and prop up my pillows just right. Then I'd pull out the Christmas movies and decide which ones I wanted to watch when. I'd pop it in and watch another after another until Brandon got home to grumble about watching Christmas movies before Thanksgiving. He's a big "Respect the Bird" kind of guy you know, but he'd watch with me all the same. We would laugh at some of our favorite parts and some other parts we found funny for the first time.

This moment is exactly the kind of thing I was looking forward to sharing with Lily. I know that even if she was healthy, she wouldn't have been able to understand the movies. But it would have made the day even better. I know her daddy would have still grumbled, but he would also have been the first to get on the couch with us and snuggle. We would have had to curb our laughing a bit so we didn't wake her. We probably would have fought over holding her since it would have been another first or maybe I would have been relieved to see Brandon after a long day. It's anyone's guess.

Even though it makes me tear up thinking about all the firsts, it also makes me smile too. Grief and joy go hand in hand that way. It's weird at times how that works.

Like I said, the laundry is done. Guess I'll go get it out and get back to my bible study.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, November 3, 2014

On Romans 12:15...

Last week when I should have been studying for the MPRE, I watched BooMama's keynote speech at Allume. Someone mentioned it on The Twitter and I pulled it up quickly, because well I just love her. Even though we have never met, I consider her a mentor of sorts on how to do this blogging world thing. She is southern, blonde, an avid football and baseball fan, a family person, and she loves Jesus hard.

Not to be all spoiler alert on y'all, but SPOILER ALERT, she gave a talk that I have thought about every day since. She spoke about Mary and Elizabeth and their time together when they'd both found out they were expecting John the Baptist and the Big Kahuna, Jesus. She spoke about how they were for one another, even when they shouldn't have been, by society's standards.

But the part that resonated with me the most was when she asked a question to the audience. She asked, "Does it ever just hit you that this is the first time we are doing this ministry thing on the world wide web?"

That question cut through me like a knife. I'm a future attorney. Sometimes I feel limited in what I can say. Not because I'm revealing confidential information about anything, but because I am putting myself out there for the world to see. I don't know if you know this or not, but the legal world, is cutthroat at best. The things I say can be used against me. The more vulnerable I am, the more I am considered to be weak.

On the flip side, I still need to be bold in my faith and the telling of my story.

That question made me think, "What do people see when they read my blog?" and "Have they seen Jesus?"

With a quick examination that didn't include me reading through all of my posts, people will find my view and thoughts on losing weight, being married for almost seven years, moving across country to go to law school, my love or dislike for the Real Housewives, the loss of my first-born Lily, my obsession with the British Royal Family, the Kennedy family, and Sooner football.

But do they see Jesus consistently? And do they see me championing others even when the world tells me I shouldn't?

I have to be honest, I know there are some posts in here that don't.

Right now, I'm going through a hard season, but there are a lot of people around me going through good seasons.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." - Romans 12:15

I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now in my life. Whether I like it or not, being part of the momma's that have lost a child club, is part of my ministry. What will others see about this time? I can tell you that while Lily's death hurts and I am struggling like I never have been before, I still feel a sense of rebirth and hope. I so desperately want a clean slate. I want to be as confident as I once was. I want to be fresh and a light for Jesus. I am wrestling with my faith as many often do when they lose a loved one like this, but I want others to see that this time can be survived and even thrived in.

Some day, it will be my turn to rejoice. For now, it is my time to mourn. God has me where he needs me, even if I hate it and even if I'm ready to be done with this time. There things I wouldn't be open to otherwise if I were not in this place.

I hope from here on out, you see me as someone who champions others, no matter where they are in life.

Happy Monday!

(You can find the link here for BooMama's keynote here.  I highly recommend it. Obviously.)


Monday, October 27, 2014

Ask and then listen

When I think about my blog, I think I'm not really interested in writing at this point. I'm also not interested in answering the question, "How are you doing?" either. Because the answer still includes my daughther being dead. And it's hard. Just is. Hard doesn't necessarily mean bad either, for the record.

Here's my point, sometimes when a parent loses a child, they want to talk. Sometimes, they don't.

For me, my personal rules so far for this situation seem to be as follows. If I want to talk then, I will respond. If I don't, then I won't. Most of the time, I don't need to be asked, I will just start talking. But if I don't answer THE question, then just go along with it. I know people care, and believe me I appreciate it, but I don't want to talk about how things are in public. I cry when I talk and I prefer not to do that. Further, telling me things like "God won't give you anything you can't handle" are rude and frankly, not biblical. So please don't say it. Honestly, when I respond, just listening to me is all I want you to do.

More simply said, Ask and then listen.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Because He sees me.

Brandon is passed out asleep already and I wanted someone to know that God sees me, so I figured the blog world will do.

********************************************

This post has two back stories.

(You shouldn't be surprised.)

Back Story #1

On Sunday night, I pretty much was as bad as a hot mess can get. I mentioned in my post that I had talked to my dad and to Brandon. What I didn't tell you was that when I was talking to them, it was through choked sobs. I haven't had tears wrack my body like that in I don't know when. In fact, I haven't cried that hard this entire year...not even when they took Lily away in the hospital.

When we last left off in the proverbial story, I was desperately asking God to show me that he sees me. I was so confused about my life and what I should do. I needed God so desperately to tell me what to do. Nothing else was working. Clearly, my plans weren't. I just needed God to tell me what to do with my life.

Sunday night I slept horribly. I maybe got three hours tops. I kept myself busy so that I would sleep hard on Monday night. Brandon barely made it through our nightly prayer before I was out. I slept hard. I woke up at 8ish this morning and then fell back asleep until 11am. I needed to sleep. OBVIOUSLY.

Quick Back Story #2

I am doing the "Children of the Day" Bible study by Beth Moore. It's the first time I've done a study of hers.

Back stories over.

(Told you that last one was quick.)

WAIT. I forgot to tell you that I'm a week behind and am catching up. I did three days worth today.

Okay. NOW the back story is over.

(Still was pretty quick for me.)

(I'm just sayin'.)

HERE'S MY POINT: God sees me!

Tonight, I did the fifth day of the first week. It felt like that last page of this day of study was just for me. At the end of the study was a verse,

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us." - Romans 8:18

I realized that this verse was about the glory and hope I had in heaven. Then, I immediately thought about a verse that has the phrase, "make paths straight" and so I whipped out my bible app and
Proverbs 3:6 says, "In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

I had told my dad that I needed God to tell me what to do.

I can't find the quote that's short enough or a clip. At the end of the movie, "The Wizard of Oz," Dorothy has been left by the Wizard and she is afraid she won't be able to get home. Glinda the Good Witch of the North shows up and Dorothy pleads desperately for the Good Witch of the North to help her. Glinda says, "You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas."

Like Dorothy, I didn't need the help of the world, which was pretty much every way I had turned so far. I turned to Brandon, my dad, and the Committee, and to the law, for help to grieve, help to know what to do with my life.

Tonight I turned from my worldly gods of success and pride and even family and friends a bit to God.

God was telling me what to do with Proverbs 3:6. He's going to make my paths straight and clear up the confusion in my life. All I have to do is seek is will in everything I do. 

Do I have the answers to all those questions from the previous post? NOPE. But I'm going to seek God's will in every way of my life. I'm not worried or nervous about how it will all play out. 

When I bought that study work book last Friday, God knew where I would be on Sunday night. He knew where I would be on Monday. He knew where I would be today all day. He knew where I would be tonight too.

Because He sees me.

Monday, September 8, 2014

On living life in a world full of unanswered questions...

"Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
Amen." - Matthew 6:9-13 KJV

"Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:1-2 NIV

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." - John 16:33 NLT

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NOTE: I am writing this down and putting it out into the great wide "internets" because I know someone some day will need some reassurance or reminder that she isn't alone in this world...and wherever you are pretty girl, I want you to know that you'll get through this and that Jesus loves you.

That being said...

I found out on Friday that I failed the bar. Again.

If you're keeping count for the "home team," this year, I thought I was supposed to start my career and start being a momma.

Both of those decisions were met with a big fat no from God. Maybe they are a "not right now" and I just can't see it.

Either way, I am really confused about life as I know it.

I've had people from the legal world tell me they can't believe I took the bar. I guess I was shooting for the moon a bit. I don't really know truthfully. Every person that goes to law school has an ego. If they think they don't, they're only lying to themselves. (If one of my law professors read that sentence, he'd lose his mind over the grammatical errors in that sentence. FYI.)

Tonight, I spoke with my dad about it and he said, "the first time, could have been a fifty/fifty shot at passing. You didn't know what it felt like to sit in that room. The second time, you weren't studying to pass. You were studying to take your mind off of what was going on with Lily."

Those things are true, but all I know is that I am now left more confused than ever.

I naively thought that as of Friday, while I was hurting over Lily that surely, I would have direction on what my next step would be. I even had begun to plan my life out again...

Apparently, I still haven't learned my lesson.

Now, I'm left with questions. It seems like they are endless. For example...

When do we start trying again to have a baby? On the one hand...I don't really feel like we can really try right now because the next bar is in six months. I've known since I was 17 that I wanted to be a lawyer. I need to make an earnest attempt at passing it. On the other hand, I've only just figured out this year at 29 years old that I wanted to be a mom. I don't really want to wait on that either. I've learned in a big way that so many things can go wrong and that only increases with age. That being said, I know that as soon as I find out I am pregnant again, I'll worry immediately that everything is going to be okay. I'll try my hardest not to worry because I know that's what the Bible tells me not to do, but I know how hard it will be otherwise.

What do I do for a job? I still don't know a ton of people in the legal community here. Quite frankly, many would see this very blog post as a sign of weakness and figure out a way to use it against me. So I'm not exactly marketable right now. And yet as crazy at it sounds, I'm still tempted to get my foot in the door. I know working would help me tremendously. That being said, I wonder if I would benefit from working in a place like Barnes and Noble so I could still have time to think things out and work through my grief. I don't say this to brag, but people have looked to me to have answers. I'm someone who always has answers about everything. Right now, I feel like I know just about nothing.

I know that life truly could be worse. In fact, I'm scared to death of that. I don't know what all to pray these days, but I do beg God to not let me be like Job. I know how selfish and whiny that sounds as a believer, but it's the absolute truth of where I am right now.

As a I said a couple of weeks ago, I'm still in that war zone. I think Pat Benatar said it best, "Love is a battlefield." When I'm in my hometown, I can't go a certain way at night time because it takes me past the cemetery where Lily is buried. I know in my heart of hearts that she is okay and that she is with Jesus, but what I can see and what I remember is that her little body is in a hole in the ground. My heart is so broken that I can't overcome the physical of this world right now. I know that to a certain extent, my heart won't be fully healed until I meet Jesus myself. (See Revelations 21:4) I'll always live with this hurt. It's kind of like the thorn in Paul's side he talks about in the Bible.

I know that part of that battle is deciding to not follow Jesus or to follow Jesus. I know that grief is just another form of spiritual warfare. It's the one question in my life I know the answer to right now.

(Well that and being married to Brandon. I know that is another non-questionable issue in my life. I feel like that should go without saying.)

Straight up, following Jesus is the only option for me. I know the only reason, I have survived the past month and even had a couple of good days is because of the hope I have in him. My dad told me tonight that he and my mom wish they could take the hurt for me. But you know that's what Jesus did on the cross. He took the hurt I am experiencing right now. He died for it. And so, even with all the hurt and heartache I have in my life right now, I still trust Him. I do. Because of his death, I have the promise of eternity. I also have the love of my husband and our families.

But in this present darkness, I need Jesus to show me that He sees me and hasn't forgotten about me. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When we were little...

I read somewhere once that cousins are a person's first friends.

When Jessi and I were little (and I'm talking pre-Loren and Will here) we were with our cousins and first friends every Sunday. 

We would go to church together with our respective families and then afterwards, we usually had dinners at our Pappaw and Grannie's. Sometimes we got to go to my aunt's house for a change of scenery and on the rare and very special occasion, we ate at Hamlin's.We spent every Christmas Eve together. The 4th of July was always at my aunt's house.

We had a routine of sorts. We knew where we would be on certain days and we knew that we would all be together. Age wise I'm the middle kid of the cousins, but I felt like I had the best of both worlds. I had older girl cousins so I got to do cool stuff that Jessi and my younger boy cousin didn't necessarily get to do. But when the older girls didn't want someone five years younger than them like I am with them, I got to be with the younger crowd. Then, of course, on the days we were with one another because that's where our families were, it was a great day as well. We experienced a lot of things together and as kids are prone to do, got into trouble together. Part of where I get my courage to try new things is from all of my experiences with my cousins.

Then my pappaw got sick and passed away. Suddenly, our world was different. Things weren't the same and we weren't all together anymore. We couldn't, because our pappaw wasn't physically here. We still got together, but it hurt because we knew someone was missing.

Then Loren and Will were born.

It's crazy to think about, but when families are younger there's a natural closeness that happens because there aren't all the activities to do when the kids in the families are older. The getting together part becomes harder. The families have new obligations to make in order to make new families begin down the line.

At the time, we still made the important dates together, but the dinners every Sunday after church didn't happen anymore. We all kept getting older and well like I said... life happened. Our Grannie passed away as well and it was harder because now two people were missing. Loren and Will didn't get the experience that the older five of us did when we were little.

This year the oldest cousin and I were both expecting. In fact, Lily has an older second cousin. He's super cute and part of what I thought about was the two of them being together initially. Obviously things turned out differently.

(Side note: I'm sure some people are tired of hearing about that by now, but it's my reality. I think talking about what is real as opposed to living in denial of what my story is probably better for me.)

But here is my point: As I assume you've gathered by now, all of us hadn't been together in a long time. The cousins are now adults with jobs and babies of our own to take care of and life has kept us busy.

When Lily was born, through the power of technology, all seven of us got to be together again. This past Labor Day weekend, we got to be together again physically too, husbands, boyfriends, and Lily's older cousin too. We laughed about all our old times and explained to Loren and Will how my dad and our cousins' momma act like our Pappaw and Grannie in their own ways.

We hit up Lake Tenkiller on Sunday. While we were out there I thought about the past month and all that has happened. I couldn't help but smile. It was like riding a bike, the seven of us being together like we were little again. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Lily did that.

While it's still really hard that she isn't here with us, it's still really great that part of her story is we are all together again. Lily gave us a reality check. It's important for us to be together even when it's hard. Helps to know what we have is really great and special and will continue when other loved ones go on to heaven.

It's worth saying again...my little girl did that.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Instead.

Today was Lily's planned due date. Instead, I am three weeks post-partum.

Three weeks ago, as the day of her birth progressed and grew longer, I knew what was coming, but I wouldn't say it or acknowledge it. The nurse came in the afternoon to do a check on me and when she left, Brandon asked her if she would tell our family that we needed a little bit of time to ourselves. She said, "Sure" and then left quietly.

And Brandon grabbed my hand...."Sweetheart, I think we need to say our goodbyes. Lily is starting to look different and I don't want you remembering this part. I want you to remember how beautiful and peaceful she looked."

I knew he was right. I just didn't want to let her go. I wanted to hold her forever.

I wanted to be her mommy the way people are supposed to be mommies.

Our families came back in and Brandon told them it was time. They each took one last time to hold her and to tell her that they loved her. I cried the entire time and my arms just ached. I wanted them to hurry so I could hold my girl again because I knew it would be the last time I did. 

They left and then it was just the three of us. It was one of the most wonderful and yet simultaneously heartbreaking times of my life. We talked to her. We unwrapped her from her blankie and just looked at her. We told her that we loved her and that we would miss her desperately every day. (And we do.) And then because I couldn't do it, Brandon buzzed for the nurse.

She came in quietly and I asked her to please keep her wrapped tightly because she was cold. I handed Lily to her and because my arms hurt so badly, I held onto Brandon so tightly as I sobbed as she walked out the door with my girl.

My arms still hurt.

I find myself zoning out, thinking about Lily. I think about the way she looked. She had a cabbage patch nose and the most beautiful little lips. She had puffy cheeks and a chin just like her daddy's. Her eyes were fused closed. So even if she was born alive, she wouldn't have been able to see us when we told her that we loved her. Her hands and her feet were the most perfect little hands and feet I've ever seen.

When I zone, I remember what it felt like to hold her and how tiny she was. Then I look down and instead, see all I have is her blankie from the hospital and I remember where I am and where she is.

In some ways, all that happened three weeks ago seems easier than today does. We've all heard the phrase, "it's gonna get worse before it gets better." I can't see that being the case for this situation. It will always be hard. We will just be distracted more in the future, instead of being consumed by our grief constantly.

Do I think we will have more kids? Yes, I do. But it doesn't mean that I didn't want Lily. I want her with all of my heart. The problem is the way that she was made means she was never meant for this world. Instead, she was meant to be with Jesus.

But I am selfish because I want my baby here.

Instead of taking my baby home, I had to let her go. Instead of learning all there is to know about her for years to come, I had to hand her to a nurse and say goodbye.

Instead of seeing her daily, I have to wait.

Instead...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

War Zone

Everything hurts now.

Well, maybe I should clarify. Physically, I'm healing well. That's about the only thing I've got going for me.

Everywhere else...different story.

Remember when I said I felt like I'd been shot and was staring down the barrel of a gun waiting for the second shot to go off?

A second shot would have felt like a mercy.

I feel like I am in a war zone.

Nighttime is hard. I know in my heart that she is in heaven, whole, healthy, and happy, but physically, the last thing I saw was her little casket in a big old vault. And it is just so sad to think about her little body in there by itself.

Right now, my heart is broken, and so I'm having a hard time overcoming what I've seen versus what I can't see.

There are also a ton of new beginnings and so many good things going on right now.

School is starting.
New babies are being born.
Football season is around the corner.

But all I can see is the ending of my pregnancy and her life.

Everywhere I look is just another reminder too...especially my own body.

My tummy has gone down a lot.
My boobs are starting to go down as well.
The swelling is gone in my feet, face, and hands.
I don't have too much soreness left.

My whole body just aches from my heart ache quite honestly.

People somewhat expect me to be me too. But I'm just not. I wrote a few months ago that there are some things that will remain the same, but there will be things that are different too. I don't think it's a coincidence that in all of this time I haven't seen a rainbow after a storm. (It's not for lack of trying either.)

All I feel right now is the different.

I wish that she was healthy.
I wish that she was alive.
I wish that she wasn't sick.
I wish that she was here with me.

And also?

I wish I wasn't in this war zone.

I know that Jesus is the great healer and so far He has healed my daughter.

All I want to feel is better.

I want Him to get me out of this war zone.

I'm ready for him to bind up my wounds, wipe away my tears, fight off the enemy, and help me stand.

I'm ready to see that I'm going to be okay.

Most of all, I'm ready to see the rainbow...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How an angel named Lily made us Momma and Daddy: Part Two

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. - Hebrews 11:1

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:12-13

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The thing about Type-A people is that we like order. We also like organization. But I think most of all, we like to be in control. Personally, the reason I like control is because I have anxiety. I may not show that anxiety, but it's there under the surface. I've never been able to sleep the night before the first day of school, from the night before kindergarten to right up to my last first day of law school. One of the ways, I get rid of this anxiety is to research the situation as much as possible. I didn't do this obviously when I was a little kid, but I certainly read a lot about what it was like to go away to college and definitely read about law school.

Worrying about the night before my first baby was no different. And I had been worrying about it for awhile.

Before the bar, I spoke with my cousin about talking me through childbirth because that's where my biggest fears were. She is Type-A like I am as well so when I explained why I was asking, she got it immediately.

Three months ago, I began learning about letting go of that control. It was my ultimate security blanket and I was stripped of it. As I've said before, I was as vulnerable and as naked as person could be before the Lord. It was where I needed to be, but it didn't mean I liked it.

So when I had no birth plans, no funeral plans, no hospital bag packed, and nothing ready for nurses/doctors and my parents were out of town, I was as out of control as a Type-A person can get. On Monday, I woke up thinking about the history of The Committee and just felt like I needed to write about it. Some blog posts feel like work and others feel like I can't get my fingers to move fast enough. The post I wrote about The Committee was the later. I now know that was God preparing my heart for what was to come.

When I last left off in Lily's birth story, we had just arrived at the hospital. Karen and Dick arrived at the hospital at the same time we did. For as out of control I felt and as anxiety ridden as I was, I began to relax when I saw Karen. One of my best friends from high school, Brad's momma, Terri (did you follow that?) came along as well.

We got all checked in, I got in my very fashionable nightgown, and they got my IV going. I don't know if I've mentioned this or not, but I do not like needles. When I say I don't like needles, I mean, I usually have to have someone hold my hand and stand in between my view of sight. I don't pass out, but I certainly am not brave either. The nurses got it in easily enough, but after they took blood, they adjusted it and it felt like they were digging around in my arm. I then got started on a round of cytotec to thin my cervix. Brandon's momma and daddy showed up soon afterwards. About an hour later, my nurse came back in to check on me and asked if I was feeling contractions. I told her that I wasn't and she said, "Well within fifteen minutes of you taking the cytotec, you started having them." So I asked Brandon to tell me the next time he saw me have one on the screen to tell me so I knew what they felt like. The first one I experienced didn't really feel that awful. It felt like I was trying to start my period.

Jessi and Will showed up right after Karen and Dick left. But before Karen left, she told me to call if I needed anything and that she would be back first thing in the morning to help me with pushing since she knew I was scared. She hugged me and told me that she loved me and that there was no other place she'd rather be.

The next day she told me that she prayed for my anxiety the whole night and that Lily wouldn't suffer. She knew that when she left, her momma heart, knew mine couldn't handle it if Lily was hurting. She also prayed a lot about my blood pressure. I have a pretty low resting BP and where I was registering was high for me. She didn't want to tell me but she was nervous.

About three hours into contractions, the nurse asked how I was feeling and if I wanted something to help me sleep. I told her that I knew I would need help sleeping because I was still having trouble getting on top of my anxiety. Brandon's mom and dad decided to head to the waiting room for a bit. The couches were a lot better than what we had going on in the room and they said they weren't spring chickens like my siblings and couldn't sleep on the floor.

When they stepped out, I told Brandon that I wanted to pray with him, Jessi, Loren, and Will. I knew they were all nervous about mom and dad not being there. We all held hands and prayed over the next few hours. We still hadn't been able to get a hold of my parents to let them know what was going on at this point. We prayed for their hearts. We prayed for Lily. We prayed for one another. It is one of the most precious times I've ever experienced with my siblings. It is also one of the proudest moments I've ever had as their big sister.

After that, it was time for my second round of cytotec. I was starting to doze, but before I could fully go to sleep, the nurse checked me. I personally prefer to block that experience from my life. But I was at a one and my cervix was thinning out really well. Everyone came back into the room and about thirty minutes later, I was out. Of course, I'd wake up occasionally because the IV was in my hand and kept getting occluded. The beeping was loud and I had to let the nurses know because they couldn't hear my machines. I'd roll over and go back to sleep no problem, but apparently everyone else was just about to fall asleep every time I got my IV occluded.

Around 3:30ish my contractions began to get harder to sleep through and I told my mother in law that. She said  to remember that my doctor said I didn't have to wait for my epidural. I told her I wanted to wait a bit longer. At four, my IV was occluded again, but when the nurse came in I told her that I was ready for my epidural. At four-thirty am the anesthesiologist came. The other awful part was when that epidural needle went in my back. The doctor warned me that this was the part of the night where most people cussed.

The doctor was right.

I had one last dose of cytotec and the epidural also began to work immediately. I could feel my legs and body relax. The doctor explained that it would take away the pain, but that I would still be able to feel pressure. I must have had this look of "And how am I supposed to know that?" look on my face because he told me to trust him that I would know. They let everyone back in the room. We all got settled. My mother in law stayed this time because I was checked after my epidural and while I was still a one, my cervix had completely thinned. (In case you were wondering, getting checked after an epidural is way better than getting checked before an epidural.)

At five-thirty, my IV was occluded again ( to no one's surprise and everyone's annoyance), but I also was feeling the contractions in my right backside. The nurses helped shift me so that gravity would help the epidural work its way into my right side and they also gave me a clicker. The clicker and I were friends. And before I knew it, I was asleep again.

I woke back up at 6:45 and told my mother in law that I felt like I had pressure, but I wasn't sure. I said I wanted to wait a bit. Mostly, I was sleepy. The epidural really relaxed my body and the ambien helped for sure. Thirty minutes later, I occluded my epidural one last time for good measure and when the nurse came in, I told her that I was feeling pressure. She said that my doctor had wanted to check me the next time.

When I talked to my doctor the next day I asked him what time he thought showtime would be. He said he anticipated mid to late morning and maybe even afternoon because it was my first labor.

Well. That's not how things worked out.

My doctor came in and checked me out. He said, "So, you're fully dilated. In fact, you're a PLUS TWO. She's still in her sac too." Before he left, he asked if I wanted to know to check her on the monitor. I told him that I didn't because if I knew she was gone, I'd shut down.

The nurse began prepping the room. After I got my epidural, however, Brandon finally passed out. He was still passed out right before the doctor came to check me. His mom and Jessi had a heck of a time waking him up. He was sitting right beside me when the doctor told me it was game time and he was suddenly very awake.

While the nurse prepped the room and the doctor stepped out to wash up, I felt a pop and like something had hit my leg. I told the nurse as soon as it happened too.

But here's the deal.

My legs were not in stirrups.
The bed part that removes was still in tact.
I had covers on me.
Like I previously said, the doctor was out in the hall.
The NICU team wasn't there.

We still thought there was time and that I was going to have to push.

But when the nurse looked, she slammed a button and said something about tech and Doctor and the next thing I knew he was in there.

Lily was halfway out.

He remarked how my uterus was strong. He pulled Lily out. They got my legs in stirrups. They had Brandon cut the umbilical cord and then handed her to me. I had to push once to get the placenta out.

Her labor was as easy as it possibly could be. It was the first of so many answered prayers.

We would soon learn that some prayers were to be unanswered. But there were also some more to be answered that we didn't realize needed to be answered and just how much Jesus was with us and protecting us the entire time.

After Lily's diagnosis, we prayed that we would get to tell her that we loved her on this side of heaven.

When I saw her, I knew two things. First, she was already gone to be with Jesus and that she had a lot of hair. 

And so, at 8:38 am on August 6th, 2014, an angel named Lily who weighed 4 lbs. 3 oz. and was 17 inches long made us momma and daddy.

I wasn't sad. I wasn't mad. I was at peace because I knew she wasn't hurting. I also felt closer to God than I ever have before. I was grateful that she never knew any kind of hurt from this world. She only knew the best kind of love: God's.

I looked over at Brandon and tears were rolling down his face. He knew too and I watched his heart break.

It's amazing how one story can affect two people very differently. I had been hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst once we had her official diagnosis.

But my sweetheart and Lily's daddy never once gave up on her. He believed that she would be alive when she was born until the NICU doctor examined her and told us that she was officially gone. 1 Corinthians 13:8 tells us, "Love never gives up" and he was that personified. I saw Jesus in so many ways on August 6th, but one of the people I saw him most in was my husband. 

We asked the NICU nurses to clean her up and to have a few moments with just the three of us before they let everyone in to see her.

When they handed her back to us, I asked for a diaper. Brandon said he hadn't put a diaper on a baby in a long time. I said, "Well today, you're going to break that streak." We decided we would also get her dressed. He asked how we were going to do that. I told him that he couldn't hurt her and that we would dress her like we dress ourselves, one arm and leg at a time.

He unwrapped her from her blanket so we could really look at her. That's when Jesus really revealed his handiwork.

We examined her hands and her feet and her face.

I pulled back her cap to confirm what I thought I had seen earlier: Lily had a head full of pretty blonde hair.

I instantly remembered my dream from a few months earlier the night after we first heard she most likely had trisomy 13. There was a little girl I couldn't catch with long blonde hair with a slight curl in a field of sunflowers. I never saw her face. She giggled a lot too.

There were so many truths in that dream.

In that moment, my sweet Lily assured me that Jesus had kept his promises. In fact, it couldn't be denied.

The entire pregnancy, we never saw her face. She always hid. 
When she was born, she was already gone. We couldn't catch her.She had somewhere else to be. 
And her hair? It was thick, blonde, and had a slight curl.

She was our Lily and there is no doubt in my mind that her place in heaven includes a field of sunflowers....

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I'm going to stop here. Winding up Lily's story will always be hard for me. I think that it's because her legacy and story is one that is still being written even now. I'm sure at some point, there will be days when I'll feel led to share.

There are a lot of parts though that will remain just with us. I hope you'll respect that.

Later this week, I plan to talk about family meeting her and saying goodbye to her, but for now, it will remain between Lily, Brandon and I. We are still healing and will be for awhile.

I do want to say thank you all for your prayers. I know this last week went the way it did because so many people were standing in the gap for us. The doctor told us afterwards that I was headed into full blown preeclampsia and that it was good we didn't wait. God was in the details in so many ways and your prayers were a part of that.

Her funeral is Tuesday. After that, we hope to begin the process of moving forward. We know that there will be hard days and good days, but we just want to keep moving. We feel like that's what Lily wants for us.

Hope this finds you well.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 8, 2014

How an angel named Lily made us Momma and Daddy: Part One

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” – Luke 2:19

"I'll be seeing you 
In all the old familiar places 
That this heart of mine embraces 
All day and through 

 In that small cafe 
The park across the way 
The children's carousel 
The chestnut trees, the wishing well 

 I'll be seeing you 
In every lovely summer's day 
In everything that's light and gay 
I'll always think of you that way 

 I'll find you in the morning sun 
And when the night is new 
I'll be looking at the moon 
But I'll be seeing you..."

I’ll Be Seeing You – Billie Holiday

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How does one begin the story of meeting someone that was already gone from this world?

I suppose I’ll do what anyone else does…start as best as I can from the beginning. Sunday night, I talked to the Committee. I told them that I had spoken earlier with a friend from law school. When I talked to her about everything it felt like I had somewhat come to terms with everything. I felt like I had been grieving for three months, and I was as mentally prepared as I could be. I could feel myself ready to stand up and fight again. In other words, I was starting to feel like myself. I don’t think it was a coincidence that I felt this way. I also think that this was God helping me stand up and be me more than I knew too.

Tuesday, I woke up, thinking I was headed to another doctor’s appointment. I had lots of questions about the child birth process. I also wore a new maternity shirt that I hadn’t worn before. My brother was headed a float trip and my little sister was headed to the doctor’s appointment with us. Jessi was at work in Edmond. My parents were still on an Alaskan cruise celebrating their 35 years of marriage. After the appointment, I planned on going back to my parents’ home. We would be back at our place that weekend once they got back. I had planned to finish up all the birth plans, pack my hospital bag, finalize the funeral plans, and do a few other fun things for the doctors and nurses. We still were looking at an inducement date later in the month, so I thought I had time.

I thought it was going to be just another day. I thought I had more time to plan.

After I took on the bar last week, I had been actively fighting swelling in my feet, hands, and face. I hadn’t been worried about my feet. I knew that was a normal part of pregnancy. But I was worried about the swelling in my hands and face. I’d read that there was a significant percentage of women pregnant with Trisomy 13 babies that had preeclampsia. Some of the normal signs were the face and hand swelling. I also had just felt bigger. When I got to the doctor’s office, I had weighed in and had a 9 pound weight gain. The most I’d ever gained in a period in between all of my doctor’s visits was three pounds. I told the nurse that had to be water weight because I had been swelling a lot. She raised her eyebrows when I said where I’d been swelling. Asked if I had been puking or having any headaches. I told her I had one the day before the bar. I took a nap that day and some Tylenol to try to get it to go away but woke up feeling worse than I did before. I got another eyebrow raise. She asked her other questions and said she’d be back. She came back and said while we were waiting for the doctor, he wanted me to do a urine analysis just to check. So I drank some water. Found the doctor’s wife who is also his lead nurse and told her I was ready to pee.

Went back into my room and waited for my doctor to come in and tell me what I already knew: I had preeclampsia.

I tried to remain calm because I didn’t want Brandon to worry any more than I knew he already was. 

Shortly after, the doctor and his wife came in and said I had preeclampsia. My urine “lit up the analysis stick like a neon sign.” I very naively told them that I wasn’t going to fight anything, but that I still wanted to wait as much as I could because my parents didn’t get back until Friday. The doctor very politely said, “Well let’s see what is going on in the ultrasound. You may not have a choice.”

We went back to the ultrasound room where the doctor had confirmed her analysis three months earlier. I quickly noted that we hadn’t been there since that time. Loren sat to my left this time so she could see her niece. The doctor talks to me while he is doing the ultrasound, usually. This time he looked around and then he said, “Samantha, her heart is enlarged and there is some swelling on her brain. The problem with that is that sometimes it’s an indicator that something is also going wrong with the momma. It’s called Mirror Image Syndrome. It can be dangerous. So you can’t wait. We are going to induce tonight. I want you to go get a good meal, get your things and then come back to the hospital. I’ll answer any questions you have.”

 I asked him all I could think to ask with tears rolling down my face. He said he was so sorry that things didn’t work out the way they did. He told me that at that point he was glad I had finished the bar. That was his goal for me. He didn’t realize that my mom and dad would still be gone. I told him that was the hardest part because I knew it would be so hard for them to get back in time. I thanked him and told him I would see him soon. His wife told me that she wouldn’t be there for the delivery but that she wanted to come by afterwards.

At this point, I want to pause in the story to say that despite the reason that we met our doctor and his team, we are extremely grateful for them. They have been a huge blessing to us. There were so many reasons that they were the right doctor for us instead of where we were. I am so grateful that my husband insisted on staying with the specialist. Because of Brandon’s discernment, we were taken care of a wonderful doctor who respected us a great deal, tolerated no BS with regards to my health, and was still very personal. He and his wife genuinely cared for us as people. Even on our toughest days in the office, they were able to bring light to the situation. They were ministering to us whether they knew it or not.

The three of us got into the elevator and hugged each other and cried. I told Brandon that he needed to call Jessi because we had a change in plans. He said that he already had let her know and that his momma and daddy were packing and on their way. Loren started texting Will to get off the river as fast as he could. At the time I thought my parents were at sea. So since I couldn’t call my momma and daddy, I called the next best option, I called Karen and Dick. Karen told me that as soon as Dick got home from work, they were on their way.

We then went home to grab Lily’s things that I had thankfully left there because I didn’t think I would need them until later in the month. I put them in a bag for her and grabbed a bag for myself to put a few things I would grab from Target because I had left everything at my parents. We made our Target run, grabbed some food and headed to the hospital....

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I'm stopping at this point not because I want to keep you in suspense, but because I'm really tired. I hope you'll be understanding of that. I'll hope to have more for you tomorrow. As you can tell, this is the back story which kind of goes with how I write my posts. I don't want to leave anything out because this is important and for my family.

Monday, August 4, 2014

On how the committee became The Committee

Sometime during law school, my sister Jessi - whose full name is Jessica by the way. This will matter later in the story.- texted her best pal Jessika and I about a football game that was making us nuts. I don't remember if it was my first or second year, but I do remember that it was football season because Jessi said that it would be easier for the three of us to have this conversation in one group because she was basically repeating herself. Since that day, we've talked about everything in between.

The End.

....except not so much.

The Committee roots go back to 1994.

If you don't recall 1994, let me refresh your memory. In 1994, Bill Clinton was president. Nancy Kerrigan had her knee hit by Tonya Harding's people. OJ Simpson ran away from the cops in his Bronco in a "high speed" chase. The songs "Cotton-Eye Joe" by Rednex and "I Swear" by All-4-One were all the rage.

But what you need to know is that in August of that year, two little girls named Jessica and Jessika were in Mrs. Riley's first grade class.

(There also was a girl named Samantha in the 4th grade, but today really isn't about her. But since you'd probably like a reference of where I was in the story, there you go. I was in the 4th grade. It was the year of glasses and my first time with braces.)

(Now you know why I'd rather focus on the Jessic/ka's. Braces and glasses are a tragic time in any girl's life.)

Our momma is a school teacher, so our afternoons look different than some kids. Instead of going home after school, we went to our momma's room, got our snack and then waited for our mom to be done for the day before heading home. Since it was the beginning of the school year, the wait wasn't terribly long that day. But we still had time to talk about our classes and what we thought.

Jessi went on and on about how she liked her class and her teacher, but mostly she talked about a girl named Jessika spelled with a K. Meeting someone with your name is not as big a novelty as one might think, especially when you had super popular 80s names like Jessi and I did. (There were 6 Samantha's in my class alone.) But it was Jessi's first time to meet another Jessica and her mind was blown that she spelled it with a K.

We soon began to hear stories about Jessika spelled with a K on the regular.

Now what you don't know about The Committe is that there are two honorary members: our mommas. Occasionally, when discussing  the latest scuttle, it is quicker and certainly more entertaining if we just include them as well. (The entertainment part comes from laughing at how long it takes the mommas to text us back.)

At some point, our moms met. I'm not entirely sure on the details, but what I do know is that Lori and Karen, our mom and Jessika's mom respectively, have been friends almost as long as the Jessic/ka's have been friends.

And our daddies (Butch and Dick) have been friends only a little time less than our mommas have.

I hope you're following along who is who because there will be a quiz later.

(Okay. Not really.)

(Sorta.)

I should probably mention that Jessika has an older sister named Kari. Again, this story isn't about her or I, but just so you know that Jessika isn't an only child. And also so you get the big picture.

1994 was a hard year for Jessi and I. Our beloved Pappaw had been diagnosed with cancer. In early 1995, he succumbed to that cancer. But Jessika with a K and her family didn't miss a beat and were right there with us. 1994 was also a year of transition. We had been unhappy with our church for some time. In summer of 1995, we finally decided that it was time for a fresh start and we began going where Jessika and her family went.

The body of Christ is a wonderful thing and I don't ever know if Jessika and her family knew how much of an influence they had on our joining the church. But they did.

Mom and Karen bonded over having two girls, a love for craft fairs, girl talk, similar hair cuts and the trials and triibulations of getting the hair stylist to listen to them, and a love for good shop til you drop session at the mall in Tulsa. They have shared similar tastes and are known for showing up to church wearing the same outfit having never called one another. They both are extremely generous with their love and have taught me on more than one occasion including as recent as this year, that forgiveness should always be freely given.

Dad and Dick share a love of music, films, and motorcycles and old cars. They are stoic, known to remain calm when Lori and Karen are in a tizzy, and I count them among the wisest men I know.

I'm sure if you're a long time reader, you'll notice that I haven't mentioned Loren and Will yet. Well, don't you worry, Jessika and her family were there for that too. In fact, Karen took mom to the doctor the day before Loren and Will were born. Mom was on bed rest towards the end with them and so Karen helped with doctor's appointments when dad couldn't make it. The doctor wanted to do a c-section that day, but I'm fairly certain between Lori and Karen, that doctor got a "what for" lecture that he probably remembers to this day. When we talk about Loren and Will's entry to this world, it always starts with the nastiest thunderstorm the day before and Karen driving Momma up there in it. Then Karen driving momma home in it after they told the doctor that Mom didn't have any of her stuff with her, her family wasn't there, and most importantly Butch wasn't there. Mom would be fine and if anything went wrong, they'd be back to Tulsa that night no problem because they were experienced at making that drive, thankyouverymuch. Loren and Will were born the next day and of course, Karen, Kari, and Jessika were there to say hello to the newest members of the gang/troup.

That's how it's always been, all the way up to that fateful day when Jessi finally sent the group text.

Our familes have been together through grade school, junior high, babies, high school, boys (good and bad), college, Phi Lamb (membership and officer years), moves across country, graduations, weddings, law school, graduate school, finding Jessi a dude, football season after football season, Alzheimer's, betrayals, and the bar.

They're a constant in our lives and vice versa. I know that we can all count on one another to be there in "a ride or die, tough love, but loved fiercely, get after it, work hard, play hard, love Jesus and one another" kind of way.

Two nights ago, I read my first post about Lily and I cried fresh tears. But, I also realized that it's time for me to get after it. It's time for me to put on my big girl panties and make the best of my time. It's what we've been taught by our parents and what we push one another to do now. I told the committee about what I'd realized last night and the Jessic/ka's told me that they were glad to hear it. They knew I needed my time to be sad and I still have some sad and hard days ahead of me, but they also were glad to see that I was rising to the occasion and not letting the old devil defeat me.

They also told me that they would be with me, no matter what. It's what we do. We are there on the best days and on the worst days. It's what we've always done. We are family. That's what the committee is about: family and loving one another. This year more than ever with Lily and a cancer diagnosis, we've realized just how important it is to be there if that only includes sitting quietly and holding the other's hand.

And all of it is because two little girls named Jessica and Jessika met twenty years ago in the first grade.

THAT'S how the committee became The Committee.

Friday, August 1, 2014

On being scared...

"Courage is being scared to death...and saddling up anyway." - John Wayne

I mentioned yesterday that Brandon and I talked on the way to Little Rock yesterday. We talked about a lot of things, but we also had the conversation I've been avoiding.

My anxiety about child birth is and has been high for about a month now. I've been reading articles about what to expect. I also plan to have conversations with my doctor and my cousin that recently had a baby. My cousin is very Type-A like I am, so she won't be bothered by my million and one questions. I've never been able to sleep the night before school starts. There is so much unknown in the day. This is like that - on a much bigger scale of course! - and I've found that if I figure out what to expect, it helps me to take back some of the control and helps my anxiety.

But that's not the conversation I'm talking about.

We had the "if something goes wrong with me during labor, this is what I want you to do" conversation.

(I cried writing that sentence.)

We both cried while we had the conversation. It was one of those things that really could have gone unsaid, but I wanted Brandon to know where I stood from the horse's mouth. I needed him to know that I'm going to fight and I wanted him to fight for me. I think he needed to hear me say it too.

As awful as it sounds, I don't want to die. I still have a lot I want to do on this Earth. More than ever I've realized that I want my shot as a momma and I want Brandon to be the daddy helping me raise those babies. Even more so, I want to grow old with Brandon. I don't want him to do life with someone else and vice versa. And yes, being an attorney and making my mark in that aspect would be nice too. I've also realized that I want to help people too....not just in a legal aspect. I want others to know that even though life can handle us a shitty hand sometimes, there is someone that can get them through it. It's only God that will get us through this hell now.

A few months ago, I told my dad that I felt like even though this whole deal was going to be hard, we would be okay. I still believe it. But I readily admit, I struggle a LOT of days to hold onto that truth too.

If things were different, I'd likely not be this anxious. Then again, maybe not.

My point in sharing this is two-fold.

1. I believe that communication has serious power. Communication comes in all forms. It can be a look, a kind word, a smile, a hug, a kiss on the forehead, or it can be a blog post. If someone goes through a time where they are scared like I am now, I hope they read this post and feel comfort knowing that someone else has been there too. It will happen the way I want it to happen too...on their own terms and not mine.

2. That being said, I share this to communicate my needs. This is a very real way that you can know HOW to pray for me, my husband, my family, and my doctors.

I hope this finds you well. And if this finds you when you're struggling, I hope you find comfort in knowing that someone has felt the way you do too.

Happy August.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

On our own terms...

"We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!  But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:12

I took the bar yesterday. I slept in until about 11 today. It was the hardest I've slept in months. There were lots of people praying for me to have focus. And I was able to quiet my mind and focus on the law for two days straight. When it was over, I was exhausted.

I'm completely grateful for it because when I woke up today, the weight of what is coming hit me like a ton of bricks.

Brandon and I haven't made any finalized plans about Lily's funeral or anything else for that matter. I've started documents for her eulogy, the birth plan, my hospital list, etc. We've talked about certain things, but most of it has been shelved. Partly because I needed to study, but also because it's just sad. Plus, I don't want this grief to overtake me or make me bitter and so I have to know my limits. We are trying to find a balance as best we can.

Before I got out of bed this morning, I looked at social media and saw that two friends lost family members too soon again today. It feels like we have just been surrounded by loss this year. So many good people taken early. I realize this is a season. But today, I'm just mad about it all. I've had my fill of death.

Unfortunately, our turn is around the corner. We talked about things a lot on Monday as we drove to Little Rock. As of last Thursday, we've been grieving for three months. Now we have to finish up all of those awful to-do lists and it pisses me off royally.

That doesn't mean that people haven't continued to reach out to us. Most of it I really appreciate. Knowing people are praying for me has been the most comforting thing. there are two emotions I've felt consistently: heartbreak and anger. I know God has been right beside me through both, but I'm just curious about what he thinks on the days I'm pissed as hell at him. On those days, I don't have a lot to say to him. I know prayer is what gets me through those days. I know it got me through the bar the past two days too. People have also brought us meals and talked to us about meal schedules for afterwards.

But there are also people that want to tell us about others that have been through a similar situation. I know people mean well, but I have two thoughts....and maybe I shouldn't share them. But this is just where I am tonight.

1) Who wants to meet someone because they've experienced the horrible tragedy you have? Think about it. You know someone or meet someone only because they've gone through the same shitty situation you have. Listen, I get it. This is a situation that will be a ministry for Brandon and I for the rest of our lives, but right now, I'm not entirely happy about it. I'll make my peace with it at some point. For now, I don't want to know others who have been there because it just makes me madder. Because here's the other deal, everyone I've met that has gone through this is someone that doesn't deserve it just like we don't. I am trying desperately to make the best of this situation and seeing more bad isn't a help right now. Some might find comfort in that. I don't at this point. It just makes the sting bite harder. I already know that in the future when this happens again and someone reaches out to me, I'll be telling them to make sure it's something the other person wants.

2) How that couple handled their situation may not be the way Brandon and I handle ours. Every so often, I look at the websites for Trisomy 13. What I've learned is that EVERYONE does things differently. I am sure that Brandon and I will be part of that trend. Not everyone has the same faith or belief system, so how each couple handles it will be different AS IT SHOULD BE. I realize that couples that have been in our place are the most likely to get that, but people are people. And I don't necessarily want to be told, "This is what we did..."

Brandon and I have to do this on our own terms. She's still our first-born child. Every couple goes through a steep learning curve with their first baby. We will be no different. I want respect (and space!) for that. 

I hope people get where I'm coming from on this. In the meantime, pray for us. The next two months are going to be really rough.

Happy end of July y'all.

P.S. I also highly recommend reading this article.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

On miracles...

   "They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,' he said to them. 'Stay here and keep watch.
    Going a little farther he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'"  - Mark 14:32-36

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I have had the following conversation several times since Lily's diagnosis was confirmed by the amniocentesis:

Other person: Hey Sam, how's it going?

Me: Good days and bad. I'm emotionally drained from the pregnancy. Things that I probably would chalk up to being normal stress me out. While I'm ready to be done, it also makes me sad because I know that when I am, she won't be here for very long either. It's a double edged sword."

Other person: Don't give up hope. God performs miracles every day. And I pray every night for you to have that miracle.

****************************

When I have this conversation with people, I want them to know that I, of all people, don't want my daughter to die. The only other person that could possibly want it more than me is Brandon.

But I don't think God is going to take this cup from us.

I so desperately wish He was.  I've never wanted something so badly in all my life. But I don't think that's what Lily's story is going to be.

That reality is just really hard to say because then it's out there and it's real and there's nothing that can be done about it. I don't think people want to believe it anymore than I do. So most of the time, I'm just quiet. I think it's a coping mechanism more than anything.

There are some times when I can't stop the pain. My triggers lately happen with two situations. The first is when I see new babies come into the world. The hardest part of seeing all these pictures of families looking happy is watching the daddy drive the family home. The other is watching all the nurseries and shopping trips and all the little rites of passage of getting ready for baby coming together.

We haven't made any major shopping trips.
We don't have a nursery.
I can count on one hand how many outfits she has.
Brandon likely won't get to take Lily home.

Some days the pain of what lies ahead of us is overwhelming, but it doesn't mean that I don't think she isn't a miracle.

I think it's crazy to know that Jesus knew what was ahead of him. He knew it was going to hurt and that it was going to be humbling, and that he was going to be humiliated. And it's why he asked for his Father to get him out of what was coming.

I so identify with this. I know Lily dying is going to hurt. I know Lily dying is going to be humbling. To some extent, I know that Lily dying is going to be humiliating. I wish that last part wasn't true, but there are some people that don't think about what they say and things will happen that I just can't control.

But you know what Jesus also knew? He knew that his death would bring the resurrection which is the single greatest miracle this world has ever known.

Now I don't think that Lily is going to be resurrected by any means, but I do think that there will be beauty  from the ashes that I can't even begin to fathom or know about yet. While I can't see past my nose for trying some days, I know that our redemption will come.

It has to come. It just has to...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Here's to seeing the good.

I mentioned in my last post that going to sleep is the hardest time of the day for me. There isn't anything to distract me from the reality that awaits us.

The other night I was looking at my Instagram account and I was looking at all the pictures from when we lived in Michigan. I was struck by how happy we looked in them. There were hard times in Michigan for us, but we were melded together as two in a way that might never have happened for us if we hadn't gone to Michigan. The whole time I was looking at these pictures I kept thinking, "All that time, that happy girl was headed for where I am sitting tonight and for this year."

I also wondered, "Will I ever be that happy girl again? Will my smile be changed? Will people be able to see that there is just a bit of sadness to my eyes for the rest of my life?"

And it made me sad and mad all over again. I told Brandon at dinner that I remembered that the first 8 months were hard because we were so homesick, law school was kicking my butt, and we were struggling financially.

But we survived and so many things worked out wonderfully for us.

That hard didn't seem to touch what we were going through now. I'd take all three of those situations in a heartbeat if it meant we got to have a healthy little girl.

I shared with Brandon that I wanted so badly for Arkansas and all that it holds for us to be good like Michigan was. I remembered Michigan being hard, but the level of hard we'd experienced in Arkansas, was just weird. I then took a sip of my water at the pizza place we were at and said, "Man I'm so glad that just about everywhere in Arkansas has Sonic ice for drinks."

And he said, "See there's something good about Arkansas right there."

It was simple and to the point. Brandon never said it, but if I want to see the good, I've got to look for it.

That's who I am. In the worst of times, I look for the good. It's how things in Michigan got better and how we survived at first and then thrived there.

I feel like this might be among the worst of times for us is an obvious understatement. But I've still got to look for the good, even if I have to fight to find it, because if I don't, I'll drown in my sadness.

The time I have with Lily is going to be special, no matter what. If it is two hours or ten, I want her to get the best version of me. I am not naive enough to think that it won't be hard to watch her go, but while she's here, I want her to know me as her momma who loves her with all she has. I want her to know the woman that fights to see the good, and not only survives this hard time, but thrives because of the grace of God.

I know there will be days I fall back down again, but the point is that I will fight to stand up and with the help of God and those that I love, I'll be able to stand up and see the good while doing it. I'll definitely have some battle scars from this deal, but those scars will be just that, scars, because God will heal me.

So here's to seeing the good...and on the bad days, here's to remembering that the good days will come.

Happy Wednesday.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

On being the Tin Man




"Now I know I've got a heart, because it's breaking." -The Tin Man, The Wizard of Oz

Ever have a post that just doesn't come together like you want it? That was yesterday for me. There are so many thoughts I have going on these days and I'm trying to express them because I know it's important in the healing process.

Today is going to be short and sweet, but exactly where I've been and am right now.

Brandon and I have our NICU appointment today for Lily. 

I've been having panic attacks at night because it gets dark and quiet in the house and there isn't any noise to distract me from what's happening. I don't have them every night. But I'd say about once a week. Things are always harder when I know I have a doctor's appointment coming.

The anxiety is crippling at times.

I fight it as hard as I can. I pray constantly throughout it. Bottom line, it's just really sad to think about and I worry about everyone else I love being safe.

Sometimes I tell Brandon if I can just survive this year, I will make it. But as soon as I tell him that all the worry about what else could go wrong with it comes whooshing in and the rest of the year seems cloudy.

I've never felt that before.

I've always been secure in my life and the direction it was going. I've always gone with plans of how I think things will work out and for the most part they do. When they haven't, I've been able to bounce back.

Now NOTHING is certain anymore.

I know that losing the power of control and being vulnerable is part of my journey in all of this, but I feel helpless.

...and scared. I've never been so scared in my life of losing the people I love.

At this point, my heart is broken with Lily. I know that with time, my heart will heal. But if I lose Brandon, I think my spirit will be broken. I don't dare say these things out loud all that often because I feel like I'm tempting fate. I have never once let myself say out loud "What else could go wrong?" because I don't want to be like Job with no one left. Even now I worry about typing those sentences out. I can't handle losing everyone. I can't really handle losing Lily.

I'm wondering if God has forgotten about me.

Everything I grew up being taught about Jesus is being put to the biggest test right now.

I want so badly to believe that this plan is better and that God's ways are better, but I feel almost betrayed by God. I am called to trust Him wholeheartedly and I've been told my whole life that no matter what I can trust Him.

I know that is Satan at work which pisses me off. I wish I could tell you that that asshole has left me alone during all of this, but he takes his shots whenever and however he can.

I fight so hard to see the good. Trust me on that. It seems like a lot of good Christian people have been hit hard this year with loss.

I want so desperately to see God's faithfulness to others, but I want to see it for us as well. I need to see it and desperately so.

So pray for us today.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What I Took for Granted...

Tonight's post is a bit of a rambler. I apologize in advance. 

We didn't try very long before we were pregnant with Lily. In fact, we weren't really even trying. We were in the "no longer preventing" phase of our fertility story. We stopped preventing at Thanksgiving. I had my cycle in December and when I had it, I was met with mixed emotions for the first time about it. On one hand, I wasn't all that sad because we had both said that we weren't putting any pressure on the situation until after the bar in February. On the other hand, I was sad because I had finally let myself think about there being more than just the two of us.

For our anniversary in December we actually went somewhere by ourselves to celebrate. We usually are around family and we were earlier that day, but we usually try to eat dinner by ourselves at some point. This was the first time since we were married that we stayed the night in a hotel for the occasion. We ate at Outback Steakhouse and saw American Hustle. During dinner, we talked about our goals for the coming year and babies were a part of that conversation. Brandon was still hesitantly excited. Meanwhile, I was very much ready to go look at and register at baby stores. Like I said, I had waited a long time to let myself think about babies so when I finally let myself entertain the thought, it was as if the dam broke.

But in all that time together (6 years of marriage and 8 years together total), I didn't really pray about our babies.

I don't want anyone to misunderstand me. I think that this time in our lives was coming for us whether we prayed about it or not.

What I am saying is that I considered kids more of a mental big life moment check list.

As a Type-A person, checking off to-dos makes me more excited than most. Babies are one of the biggest and last to-dos in terms of goals for my life that I have. I know it's going to be one of the most important contributions I make in this world.

So it was a big to-do being checked off and little Miss Have to Be in Control aka Me was very happy about it.

God knew that. So did Satan.

In January we found out we were pregnant. We made it through the first trimester. I had some morning sickness and my hormones were a bit cray at times, but we had very good signs that this was going to be a healthy pregnancy.

I let myself think even more about all that we would do with our newest addition.

I thought about her going for her first cheeseburger with her Pop (my dad), blasting the radio with her momma, being at AL's and Uncle Will's graduation party stealing the show, arguing with her about clothes, boys, and rules when she was a teenager, her nursery and what I wanted it to look like, going to Papa and Mimi's (Brandon's dad and momma) to fish with daddy and Papa on the ponds, being a shoe junkie with her AJ, being Nana's best road trip buddy yet, having her Uncle Matt and Uncle Aubie wrapped around her finger, what she would be when she grew up, whether she would play softball or be a cheerleader to AL's delight, and everything in between.

But something I didn't think a whole lot about was her time in the church growing up. I'm not saying that I didn't think about it. I just took for granted that it would happen. I didn't realize what a responsibility it was and is to be a parent as a Christian. I was fortunate enough to have good leaders in our church that I wanted to be in the church I grew up in. I also had parents that took the time to make sure I was at church on Sundays and Wednesdays. Those priorities are a large part of why I am who I am today.

I figured it was something else on the check list that would get done. I didn't really know how that would happen which should have been a sign to me. When I think about something important that I don't know how it will all work out, I think about it and analyze it and study it so that I can have just a slight edge on how to handle whatever situation I'm looking at.

On April 24, 2014 all of that control as to how I was going to be a good parent was stripped from me. There isn't a thing in the world I can do to make this better for Lily. It is what it is.

To be this vulnerable is really hard.

I have to trust God to take care of this situation completely. I have to let Him fight for me.

I think that's my spiritual battle.

When things are good, the trust and the faith come easily in Him.
When things are hard, the trust and faith in God are tested.

And boy am I ever being tested. Right now, I have to put my whole faith in Him.

I have to let go of my security blanket that is control. I took it for granted and now I'm facing life head on without it.

Instead of me teaching Lily about Jesus, her story has been about her turning me toward Jesus not just for her, but for her future siblings provided we are blessed with children in the future as well.

I love that because I pray for all of my babies daily. And I hate it because it took this situation to get me here.

But I'm not taking it for granted because I know it's where Jesus needs me to be -trusting Him entirely with EVERYTHING and EVERYONE in my life.

 But dang is it hard.

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we cannot see...And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." - Hebrews 11:1,6

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Bad Days

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, 
When sorrows like sea billows roll; 
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 
It is well, it is well with my soul. 

Refrain: 
It is well with my soul, 
It is well, it is well with my soul. 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, 
Let this blest assurance control, 
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, 
And hath shed His own blood for my soul. 

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!— 
My sin, not in part but the whole, 
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, 
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! 

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: 
If Jordan above me shall roll, 
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life 
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul. 

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, 
The sky, not the grave, is our goal; 
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! 
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul! 

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, 
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; 
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, 
Even so, it is well with my soul.
- It Is Well With My Soul, Horatio G. Spafford

Recently, there have been quite a few people on social media tell me how strong I have been through all of this. 

And I just want to laugh. 

I have bad days more than what you think. 

I probably should talk about them more, but I don't necessarily want it to be all bad all the time. I realize that I have to give myself grace and let myself be sad. But I don't want the sadness, heartbreak, and anger to be my story, or Lily's story entirely. Typically, on my bad days, I try to stay off Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram. 

That being said, I think it would be a disservice to Christ not to talk about my bad days. Because when I have bad days filled with anxiety, worry and anger are the days that someone reaches out to let me know they're praying for us or they've seen some lilies and wanted us to know they're still thinking of the three of us. Or Brandon is having a good day and I can tell him and he can handle it. I also want people to know that the only reason we made it through this time was because of Jesus and the community around us. 

In my hometown church there are 6-7 babies from my high school youth group that have been born or will be born this year. My Lily is one of them. This past Thursday, one of those babies was born. Friday was pretty much an awful day. I didn't go to class because I knew it was going to be a hard day. I haven't had a full day where the sadness and heartbreak just overwhelms me since I started studying for the bar. Like I said, I could just tell this was going to be bad and I needed to give myself some time.

The thing is that while it is wonderful that this new life was here, it also was hard. It was an in-my-face reminder that isn't going to happen for us this time. We don't get to take Lily home. She doesn't get to grow up. Brandon doesn't get to take his little girl out for special dates. She won't have a wedding day. The list goes on. And on. And on. And on.

But the bigger issue I've dealt with lately is anxiety. It is crippling at times. I'm a very Type-A person. I like to be in control on a regular basis. This whole situation is out of my control. Parts of it, I've made my peace with...well at least the best I can. But what I'm struggling with most right now is child birth. I think it's because I am dealing with an inevitable infant loss that I'm scared of losing others in my life.

But mostly, I worry about and my anxiety consumes me regarding child birth.

We have made some decisions regarding child birth and one of those decisions includes an induction. (This is all based on the contingency that she doesn't pass away before then.) I'm not ready to share when that's going to happen, but the point is that I know emotionally, it is the best thing for me.

I'll be honest, Saturday through Sunday was HARD for me. Brandon and a friend of his were talking about child birth and how so many things can go wrong if not watched. I hadn't really told Brandon what I was struggling with and I asked him to change the subject. He didn't really think anything about it. They proceeded to continue the conversation. I later told Brandon that I had been having anxiety about it. He was super upset knowing what he knew afterwards.

The only time I felt a release in those two days was while we were at church on Sunday morning. I don't think that's a coincidence.

I don't tell you these things to feel sorry for me. I don't tell you these things to pity me. I just want you to know the ways you can pray for me.

This is where I am.

I'm not a quitter. Never have been. But I would be lying if I didn't say that I'm not struggling.

I will say I've found hope in the following verses for the days to come.

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." - Isaiah 40:28-31

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." - Psalm 34:18

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 
and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." - Isaiah 61:1-3

I read them over and over again. And I don't give up my fight because if I do, I feel like Satan has won. And that can't happen. I refuse to let it be the story for Lily and I refuse to let it be the story for me. But most importantly, I refuse to let it be the story for Jesus' kingdom. 

In my weakness, Jesus is made strong and while I am hurting, I put my hope in Him. Some day, I'll be standing upright again. Until then, I have to be okay accepting His help and the help of our village of loved ones to stand up.

So just keep praying. 
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Hi y'all! The name's Samantha. You can call me Sam if you like. I am a lover to a boy I met at Falls Creek in the summer of 2005, that is a student of Jesus, a Sooner born and Sooner bred and when I die I'll be Sooner dead, Democrat by party, blonde to the core, and oldies but goodies kind of girl.
The Ruby Turtle Hippie Times
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