the TRUE Vine


An update!

Olivia Serene joined our family at the end of June! She is sweet, beautiful, and healthy. I do believe she is the sweetest tempered baby we’ve ever had!

Had a thought this morning…. I’m rereading a few of my favorite homeschooling books in the hopes I’ll find my perfect game plan….

The thought?

I am worried about many things but only one is needful. Should I do all that I can to introduce my children to this man, Jesus, my life and purpose will have been well sever. For if I success in that ONE thing, I can consider motherhood a success. If I should succeed in MANY things but fail to teach them about Him every single day with love and devotion I will have failed. It will not matter, ultimately, how well they read Latin or if they’ve read the “Great Books.” None of it will matter one bit.

Be mindful mothers. Be anxious for nothing. Only one thing is needful. Cast your eyes on Him daily and walk forward.

Okay, so if you’ve heard any of this and I’ve been running across more and more blogs on the Anti-Patriarchal movement from former quiverfull and pro-Dad / anti-feminist families/wives then you might know there is a pretty servere backlash against quiverfull families going on.

It’s been pegged as the Anti-Patriarchal movement.  This morning on the RGT forum, someone offered up this link.

Mary Pride’s book has been targeted as one of the “initial” books in the patriarchal/quiverfull movement and it’s been a very long while since I’ve read it, way back in 2001.

However, her rebuttal is worth reading.  I thought it  well written and on topic.  It made me think.  Perhaps your little girls are a long way off from teen years yet, but let me tell you, about 14/15 you start to hit a panic mode.  TRULY panic mode.

Essentially it goes something like this:
I want her to be well prepared.  I want her to be well educated.  For what?  Oh dear.  I don’t know.  For anything?  If I push her out into the wide world of Academia are we going to lose her heart to the feminism/liberalism that exists and is crammed down student throats at even Christian colleges?  Do I want her to stay home & be married & have babies?  Really?  What if she never does get married?  Is she then still serving God or is she just serving her family and not using any of her gifts?  WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN AND HOW DOES IT EQUATE TO MY FAMILY?????

I wasn’t terrified 2-3 years ago.  Aware, yes.  Thoughtful, yes.

But, now, with three years left of my “prep” work, terrified might just be the better word.  Then I look down the line.  Okay, one son – that’s easy.   Whatever he does, he’ll have to support himself or a family.  And so he is prepared through work, service, and education.  Then Elizabeth.  Then Rebecca.  Then there’s Tim.  Phew!  Same thing, one standard. Then Abigail, Sarah, Daniella, and Baby Dassah.  Wait.  ((Did I say that?!?  Right, like I’m going to get that name, lol.  – Sorry, got sidetracked.))

It is possible I’ve overthought it.  I mean after all, all I REALLY need to do is pray, love God, and obey and serve.  Preparing my daughter academically does NOT mean turning her into a raging liberal feminist.  Gasp.  As a matter of fact, it turns out that intelligent, beautiful, well spoken, academic minded young women CAN exist to the glory of God.  And it doesn’t mean she must ever be career minded.  Moses REALLY didn’t need a plan for getting the Israelites free of the Egyptians.  He didn’t.  He just needed to love God with his whole heart, be willing to serve, and obey what God told him.  He could not have foreseen the parting of the Red Sea or anything that God did for them so that they could be free and begin the tremendous plan God had for them.  As a matter of fact, without prayer, love, and obedience to God, he would have mucked it all up.

Eight girls to raise up to the glory of God.  Eight.  Some days I truly want to ask God, “What were you thinking?!”  I’m a long shot from Suzy Homemaker, not even the greatest helpmeet even if I’m awfully attached to the husband He gave me. 😉

Ana is in her freshman year of high school.  So what are we preparing her FOR?

My mom asked me a month ago, “So what does Ana want to do?”  I smiled and said, “Well, she’d like to eventually get married, have babies, and homeschool them with the curriculum she’s working on.”

My poor mother, bless her, she froze with this awkward smile on her face.  She wasn’t sure if I was serious or making a joke.

I love her.  We grew up in very different situations and it has colored our perspective an awful lot, but set us in entirely different directions.

Ana’s back up plan is studying law.  That is what she calls it too, lol.  Her back up plan.  She doesn’t want to be a lawyer.  She wants to study constitutional law and write papers in defense of those things she feels passionately about  – homeschooling being first and foremost.

An interesting job choice really.    Is there even such a career?

But I do go back to what MY obligation is to my daughter through all of this.

I, as her mother and as God’s daughter, must love Him, I must obey Him, I must be willing to serve.  I must prepare her for life as best as I can in according to the gifts He gave her.  And then, some day, I’ll stand by and watch prayerfully, as He parts the waters and makes the path more clear.

This is a reprint from my old blog June 19, 2007.  I always find it fun to do reprints, because it’s amusing to see where I was, where I am, and the contrasts are often striking.  When I originally wrote this Timothy was 2.5 (he’s now five) & Abigail was the baby.  We have since added Sarah Elaine and Daniella to the family and it’s almost three years later…..

This struck me today, though I’ll admit it is not the first time.

Romans 1:28

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind,, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity.  They are full of murder, strife, deceit, and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their paents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserver death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

So exactly how should we view disobedience?  God puts it into the same category as God-haters?  Wow.  Hmm…

I think it’s important to realize we are to train our children in the way they should go.  It’s an easy thing to say and a difficult thing to do. However, if God has called you to this task of parenting, then it is our obligation.  Let it be said that this is very convicting for me, because I used to be far more consistent.

Somewhere along the line, about the time Rebecca (#5) and Tim (#6) were born eleven months apart, I wore out. 😉  As a result, I have three delightful children, one recovering monster, a two year old terrorist, and the baby.  In case you’re doing the math and it doesn’t make sense, we had a little girl in 2001 (#3) that has already made her way to Heaven.

It’s strange but I also read a bit of Hebrews this morning and this one verse kept jumping out at me.  Unfortunately, I’m just not entirely sure of the entire reading, but I’m certain that if I pray on it, God will let me know what He means me to get out of it.  But I do see how it can tie in with this.

Hebrews 5:14

(It is being taught that these men are slow to learn.  They are not maturing as they ought.)

“… But solid food is for the mature,, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

How interesting.  We can train ourselves (and our littles) to recognize good from evil simply by putting into use what God teaches us to be right and true.

How much does that speak to the importance of doing the right thing over and over and over again?  It is exhausting some days… teaching these little ones things over and over again.  To make our olders ones redo work with the right attitude as we train the heart.   To carry on *our* tasks cheerfully, quickly, completely as we are trying to instill in our children.  I know I like to grumble some days!  But would I want my children to pick up that attitude?

To be so conscious of our actions and attitudes is so hard.  Especially if you’re like me!  I’m not terribly aware… I lack peripheral vision for the things going on around me.  Generally I’m a focus person… I focus on the one thing in front of me and that is a difficult thing to unlearn.  May God help me on this one!!

This was the original blog post.

I’d like to add a verse that has lately been discussed in our home though.

James 1:13-15

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Each person is tempted by different things.  I can remember reading something by CS Lewis and he was talking about temptation and how certain things have just never tempted him.  I think that’s true.  I’ve seen others who struggle wildly against things that would never tempt me and yet there are things I struggle mightily with that others never find to be a problem.   I was trying to explain this verse to the children the other day, trying to explain to them why it’s important to not “dabble” with temptation….   When one sees a sign ahead with the printing “Beware of Quicksand” one should avoid the area at all costs.  Too often when we see that sign, we have a tendency to just want to “get a little closer” and take a peek.  Just a quick peek.  Hmmm… Well maybe just a *little* closer?  Pretty soon you’re sticking your toe into the quicksand just to see how it feels.  You’ve given into temptation and the Lord tells us that following those desires can and will lead to sin.  Before you know it, you have one foot in…. And then you’re up to your neck.  And what does sin lead to?  Death.  That’s right… Practically before you can figure out how in the world you got into your quicksand up to your neck, you’re going to die in that sin.  So much for “dabbling” with temptation, eh?  Sometimes we think, “Oh, just a little can’t hurt.”  It can.

How serious is disobedience?  How serious is it to let our children dabble in disobedience?  How vitally important is it that we teach our children to submit to a greater authority?  That we instill the habit of obedience?  That we not allow the temptation to sin to take root in our own home, in our children?  Obviously they are fallible humans, as are we!  But, we must put forth great effort to recognize sin and reject it and teach our children to do the same and not be indulgent….  Indulgent.  Interesting word.  How difficult is it to not indulge your children, just a little, in selfish and sinful behaviour?

in·dulge

1.to yield to an inclination or desire; allow oneself to follow one’s will
2.  to yield to, satisfy, or gratify (desires, feelings, etc.)
3.   to yield to the wishes or whims of; be lenient or permissive with: to indulge a child.
4.   to allow (oneself) to follow one’s will
In other words, to indulge is to satisfy one’s own will rather than the will of another.
Interesting that a synonym of indulge is “spoil” and yet the antonyms are “moderate” and “abstain.”  Hmmm……..

This thought has been on my mind for a long while and I haven’t yet put it to any good use.

We talk about tithing, we talk about treasure, we talk about money, storing, investing, saving, spending….  It seems to me that money takes up a good portion of our energy.  And not that is not needfully so sometimes.

But, there are those of us who believe that money is not our only treasure.  I believe this is especially true of Christian mothers.  If treasure is defined as something of great value, great worth, that isn’t easily come by, then I know of a treasure more precious than money in our household.  Money might be hard to come by, difficult to budget, and quickly gone, but I can think of one thing of greater value, more difficult to come by, incredibly hard to budget, and even more quickly gone than money.

Time.

Oh, Christian mothers.  Could I beg that we tithe our time?  Or more importantly, let’s look at Matthew 6:21.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So I want you to evaluate – how do you spend your time?  Because how you spend your time will tell you where your heart TRULY lies.

Homeschooling mothers, do you spend over 95% of your schooling on academics and give a mere 5% to teaching your children about God?  Christian wives, are you spending your precious time on things that do not support your God given role of wife and mother?

How we spend our time is one of our best reflections of our hearts.   If truly we love and honor God should we not give Him the first fruits?  The best of the best?  Shouldn’t He get our best and not what is left over?  Should we not devote our “riches” to furthering His good, His will, His intentions?

Today, the Lord has granted you twenty four hours.

How will you “spend” it?  How will you honor Him with it?  Will you use your time in a grateful and obedient manner, fulfilling your God given purposes through Him and for Him?   Will you tithe your 10%?  Will you go even further with a joyous and obedient heart?

Nothing terribly poignant today…  I’m just tickled to announce we had a one POUND weight gain.  That’s right!  One pound and two ounces to be exact.  This officially brings Baby Ella, ten weeks old, up to eight pounds and six ounces.  I can’t tell you the relief.  It was a very PHYSICAL feeling of a weight being lifted.

She’s lying in my bed right now, grunting and hiccuping, lifting her little head.  We’ve gotten a few smiles in the previous days… Our darling seems to be hitting her  milestones as well?!  Time will tell.  She goes to the pediatric clinic next Wednesday and then to meet the pediatrician we’ve been referred to in April.   Her muscle tone seems good.

So blessed.  Yes, that’s me.  Just incredibly, incredibly blessed.

Healthy babies are an amazing miracle of God.  When you think of everything that could go wrong, genetically or just in the course of day to day adventure, a healthy child is a miracle.   If you have one (or six) give each of them an extra kiss.

I know that there are things we struggle with day to day.  I don’t want to downplay the emotions we feel when we’re frustrated with a messy house, or a child that isn’t quite “up to par” with where we feel they should be in school.  I know it’s hard to keep up and keep going.   But please try hard to put things into a context.

We know how excerpts from books can be taken out of context and warped.  Goodness! People do it all the time to the Bible… They take scripture out of context to twist and thwart for their own purpose.

Today… Today try to put life into the “bigger picture.”  There are those in life to whom every thing is a one or a ten.  Either the sky is falling or they fail to feel enthusiasm for the little things.    I have noticed two women have particularly encouraged this lately.  I noticed Marcia Somerville (Tapestry of Grace author) specifically writes encouragement into the curriculum.  I also remember reading about the need to encourage our children in a couple of Teri Maxwell’s books.   I remember something Teri wrote about that often encouragement, to those who aren’t used to it, feels false or odd.   It’s a worthy habit to practice.  So often when we are learning a new skill or beginning a new habit, things often feel strange.  It doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.  It only means we must keep at it until it feels normal.

Too often I think we fail to encourage or to recognize that little things are worth celebrating!  I am not speaking of praising our children very every little thing.  I think that can become false.  But I do think that sometimes we have a tendency to get so caught up un the “gottagetitalldone” insanity, we fail to:

STOP!

SLOW DOWN!

BREATHE!

RECOGNIZE!

APPRECIATE!

I’d love to give you a handy little acronym to remember…  Um. Hm.  Not really my thing though and ssbra doesn’t have a nice ring to it. 😛

Recently a dear friend of mine started a gratitude journal, a very worthy practice.   And just yesterday the kids and I were digging into Hebrews and there is a lovely verse in Chapter 10.
Hebrews 10:
“And let us consider how we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds. ”  When you spur a horse you give it a nice kick in the right direction.   So, this morning, while I’m not advocating giving your children a good kick in the right direction, lol, I think you can certainly “strongly encourage” them onto love and good deeds.

So often as Christian parents I think we are walking in a trap that Satan loves to use.  We use verses, we talk about love, we discuss encouragement, we utilize scripture.   But it’s  hard to live and breathe it.    Without gratefulness, you’ll NEVER appreciate what God has given you.  And without that appreciation you will fail to treat those gifts as gifts.  This isn’t a one woman guilt trip.  What once was, was.   Two points for you to consider this morning that I found personally useful.   We are in the process of finding a local church.   Last week the pastor made an interesting observation.  Each of us can be one of two things – a thermometer or a thermostat.  They are two very different tools.  As applied to mothering, the temperature can tell us the temp. in our children.  Yes, yes, they’re a little too hot or a little too cold.  But that is all it can do… It’s very limited in it’s application.   But the thermostat has the ability to gauge the temperature and then ALTER that temperature.   If the thermostat recognizes the room is a little too hot, it has the ability to lower the heat a degree or two.  So, today, decide what you’ll be in your home.  Will you simply gauge the temperature but make no effort at changing what’s going on in the room or in the attitudes of your children or yourself?

Two weeks ago we visited a large church and it was very nice.  More importantly I’m wondering if the teaching wasn’t just for me that morning. 🙂  I know that we all have our own little personal struggles.   Some have a tendency/weakness towards one particular sin or another.  You may not struggle in the same area I do.  My personal struggle is my tongue.  There are days that I know I’d be better off if I just cut it out now.   And on particularly good days when I’ve prayed for assistance and managed to choose my words well, I’m encouraged.  But, on those days when I’ve lost my temper and lost my encouragement, I can use my tongue to inflict evil. 😦  And on those days I think I am NEVER going to get to where God is pointing me.  Ever.  It’s on those particularly hard days I feel like giving up.  I wonder how in the world God can use me in my childrens’ lives when constantly I learn a lesson and then do something stupid.  And, generally, it DOES follow that pattern… Learn something wonderful, screw up.

This pastor must struggle with the same… Wondering how God can use such an imperfect person.  Because he pointed us in the general direction of Peter that Sunday morning.  Look at Peter.  He walked and talked with Christ Himself.  Promised to stand by His side.  And Christ loved him deeply.  And yet Peter denied him, not once, not twice, but THREE separate times.   Peter must have felt like an utter failure.  Christ had even told him he’d do it and he denied that he would.  And here he was, just a short while later, doing exactly that which he professed he would not.  And surely he must have thought, “What good am I to God?  How will He ever be able to use me in the lives of others?”

And yet the good Lord, in His mercy and wisdom, used Peter mightily.

And so I say to you, you’ve screwed up.  Most likely you’ll do it again. (Nice, hm?)  And yet God CAN use you.  You must be willing.  I pray that each of you would go out this morning and love your children, encourage your children.  I pray that you’d be SPURRED on to encourage and love.  And that you’d also teach your children and spur them on to do the same.  No kicking please. 😛

I found myself in Luke this morning.  My devotions tend to follow no pattern, no sensible path.   And I admit I feel a little heavy this morning.   Sometimes I think while there is great joy in being a mom to many, there is also shouldered a heavy burden as well.

This morning, as I thought about how I felt, I decided it was a bit like a small child who has been given a  gift that is both huge and lovely.  She can’t wrap her arms around it, she can’t carry it home, and she wonders how she’ll ever be able to get it home… It seems a bit overwhelming and more than a little worrisome.  But she desparately wants it.

Thus far I have nine children….. Hannah is with Christ.  Out of my two oldest children who understand the concept of salvation, one is a Believer, the other is not.  There are days when I will run the statistics through in my head of how many of my children will follow my faith and how many will turn away.

I feel a bit like when the Lord says I am not willing that ANY should perish.  I am simply not willing.

There are days like today that I ponder the value of a good church, an Awanas program, things of this nature.  Truth be told I would really like the burden and blessing of instilling my belief system and faith passed onto someone else for a bit.  It is an awesome gift, to be sure, and yet I feel like the three year old… I DO wonder how I will carry all of it home.  It seems more than a little overwhelming at times.

Today I shed more than a tear as I looked at the beautiful pictures of my children hanging on the wall.  I would be willing… Willing to give just about anything that they should come to faith.  Willing to go through anything “bad” in order that the Lord use it for good, for faith in their little lives.

Do you not wonder, MOMYS, how you shall ever fulfill this task the Lord has given you?  How you shall ever hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”

I firmly believe I was “given” two verses this morning… One to me, the other regarding my family.

Luke 8:48

“Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”

Luke 8:50

(The Lord here is speaking to the father of a child that has just died.)

“Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

And so what is there to do but to walk in faith with prayer and thanksgiving?

Have a blessed day.  Bless your family, pray for your family, love your family.  Thank God for them and be grateful today.   More than that, walk not in fear, but in faith.

I want to share an organization, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

It’s a topic on child loss.  So, if you want to continue, please do so.  If not, you should probably stop reading……….

If you’ve followed the blog, you’ve gathered bits and pieces of our loss.

In 2001 we were expecting our third child, a beautiful baby girl.  The pregnancy was going well, I was wretchedly nauseous.  In late December I started experiencing contractions, nothing dire, just unusual for me.  When I saw my OB (military hospital literally in the middle of the desert) she was young and inexperienced and pooh-poohed me.  We went home for leave in January and I saw my old obstetrician who put me on monitors and affirmed I was indeed having contractions and contacted my obstetrician back in California.

Following that week, they did an ultrasound with a specialist in the room and she told me I needed to be on bedrest.   It wasn’t anything I was terribly concerned with because no one thinks of bad things happening to them, especially not at 24 years old.   At least I wasn’t concerned until she said, “Well, if you can just get through March…….”  That opened my eyes.  I was horrified.  March? March!?  I wasn’t due until May 25, 2001.

Early  February 2001 I had a normal doctor’s appointment.  It didn’t go well.  They put me in an ambulance, lights on, and drove the 2+ hours to a hospital that could handle such a preterm birth.   I had a bolus of magnesium sulfate and then they put me on a drip.  That night was wretched.  I ended up with numerous tests and an EKG because they thought the mag. sulfate was causing serious heart problems.

I spent the next ten days getting alternating IVs all over my arms, hands, et cetera because the magnesium sulfate isn’t something your body particularly likes.   I was in a trendelemburg position (head down, legs up) on my hospital bed and wasn’t allowed up, even to use the bathroom.  Ten days.   That’s how long we lasted, Hannah and I.

Away from my babies who were almost 5 and almost 2 for ten days now, I gave birth to Hannah Elizabeth.  She was 26 weeks, 1 day, 1lb 15 oz, and she was tiny.  We tried so hard to keep our hopes down, but when she came out crying (mewing) and red and mad…… Well, it was hard NOT to hope.  It was SO hard not to hope.

And then the tests.  Oh my goodness, the tests.  She had two holes in her heart, a severe brain bleed, her respiratory system was a mess… These were the first reports.

But as the days, and honestly?  They melded into one very long day.  I don’t really remember where we ate, where we slept, what we did in between times at the NICU.  It’s such a blur now with just moments of clarity, of  “I remember…..”   As the days passed the reports came in and it turns out she had one hole (normal) not closed, and that closed with medication.  The brain bleed?  Not nearly as major as they thought.  And her respiratory system?  Well, not good, but not awful.  There WAS hope.

I remember…..

Those few moments of clarity.  The few things you remember.  I remember being SO angry at a grandmother who didn’t remove her rings like we were supposed to to stop the spread of germs.  I was so upset with her.   I remember requesting Hannah be baptised.  I remember going to the Ronald McDonald house and feeling relieved….  We couldn’t very well afford a hotel and to drive back and forth… Well, that wasn’t affordable either.  We had to figure out what to do with our little ones too… They were used to Mama being around.  And who in the world did we know that could watch them?  No one.  We were military, newly moved half way (literally) across the country.  I remember the baby across the aisle and how he had a huge machine that circulated his blood for him.   I remember watching a “kangaroo” video about how to hold your baby and was amazed that we might just hold her.   I remember how thin and transparent her skin was.  And how she looked so much like Briana, I thought.  She had hair, dark hair.  I remember, most of all, how perfect she was in every way.  Just tiny, miniature, like a baby doll.  And so incredibly delicate.  And I vividly remember watching her chest rise and fall.

And I remember the day she died, just twelve days after her birth.  We had gone home that weekend.  It was the first time I’d been home since February 4th.  My mother-in-law, who had come to take care of us since the end of January, had to go back to the airport and I remember feeling very alone with my children while DH took her……..  I had been so surrounded by people for the last three weeks.   And we called Sunday night to make sure she was okay and they said they thought she had a bit of an infection.  She had begun breastmilk just a couple days before, through a gastro tube.  We were concerned, but not overly, and we were planning on going in in the morning.

The next morning I was bathing and the phone rang.  We were getting ready to go the hospital.  They told us we had to come.  Now.  She wasn’t doing well.  They thought we’d have to make a decision today.  THE decision.

Oh Lord.  It was the single thing I had earnestly prayed for through it all… to NOT have to make such a decision.  How could I?  How could we ever decide it?  Live or die?  Hope or give up hope?  At what point do you give up hope?  I still don’t the answer to that.

When we got there we met her doctor, having also been gone for the weekend and we told her we had come to make a decision.  She felt we were hasty and we couldn’t be thinking about that.  She hadn’t seen her charts.  She went and came back and said she was so sorry……  And in that conversation before we could really talk about what we needed to decide, the nurse came and said we should hold her while we could.

And they took that tiny little girl out of her incubator for the very first time.  And they let us hold her.  And they gave her morphine.  A lot of morphine.  And then more, and more.  I’m sure it wasn’t so much but she had had some before we came and her eyes were open, really open for the first time ever and do you know just know how you know when an animal is in pain, even if it doesn’t cry out?  That’s how you know………..

There is a point.  There is a point that a parent should never, ever reach.  Should never know is even possible.   The point is when you come to the end of your child’s life and you come that single point when you turn the corner and you stop praying, “Oh Lord, let her live” and instead you pray, “Lord, please, please, please, let it be over.”  And you beg for the end of your child’s life.  It is not a point I ever, ever, ever, ever want to experience again in my life.  And I remember whispering for God to please take this sweet baby because her death was not painless nor was it fast.   But in the end it was most merciful.

When it was over we were allowed in a mourning room, to hold our daughter Hannah.  And we held her and sat there, we two.  We were so much younger then, this eight years ago.  Just barely turned 24 and and 28.  I don’t think we knew what to talk about……. What to do next?  What to do now?   How long do you hold a dead baby in your arms?  The answer is until she is cold and lying there so still and you realize that you will have to let her go.   You don’t have a choice, and you can’t take her with you………. You have to hand her to the nurse and walk away.

When they brought her to us, and it is in NO way the fault of the hospital, but when they brought her to us she was dressed in a cheap doll outfit.  It was scratchy and pink and I still have it and can I just say how much I despise that little pink dress?  How dare it touch her skin?  Didn’t they see how delicate she was?  How easily her skin was scratched?  The blanket was no better, itchy scratchy thing.  And what can they offer to a 1lb 15 oz. baby?  There isn’t much…………

And that became a driving obsession……. to find something to dress my baby in.  The only chance for a mama to take care of her daughter, the burial.

On the way home that night, and it seems too miraculous for me myself to believe, but it did indeed happen, friends can vouch for it….  Our van started on fire.  Not a major one, just a bit of flame and a lot of smoke.  And if you know the road between Barstow and Fort Irwin, you know it’s long and lonely and dark.  And there is no “little town” or “little stop” along the way. A van pulled up behind us and he was kind enough to throw his soda on the fire, but of course the van didn’t work.  And so they offered us a ride back.  Ironic, they thought, fortunate timing.  She lived off base and her brother in law was visiting… Had to run back on base for something and he offered to come with or else she probably wouldn’t have stopped.  They picked us up and so how was our night going?  Exhaustion.  That’s all I can say.  Because if I had had my wits about me maybe I wouldn’t have told this unfortunate one that our daughter had just died.

In the end, and here is the miracle, she helped to run the AER – the Army Emergency Relief.   By midnight that night we had virtual strangers, the gal who babysat my little ones 2-3 times when I had doctor appointments, also from Iowa, but barely an aquaintance, offer the use of her car.  The AER had promised burial expenses, car repair expenses, plan tickets… All on them.  We were new to the military.  We had NO idea that AER existed.  We had family and in the end they probably would have helped out, but when we could do NOTHING for ourselves, God stopped in.  I’m not fond of coincidences, I don’t much believe in them, for I know, I’ve seen, He can use all things, ALL things, for His purpose.  And I say this having buried a child.

The burial was very hard.  I made her outfit.  Blessedly I had learned to sew just months before that.  We had bought fabric to make preemie clothes in for her and I used soft knit with gray koalas and bits of pink and purple.  I didn’t make a lovely gown, there was no lace, no trim, but it was soft and comfortable and everything that that wretched pink dress wasn’t.  We made her a hat.  We got her a blanket.  We got her soft pink booties…..

What do I regret?  Well, looking at the organizations who supply things for the families for dead babies…… Oh. Sigh.  I wish I had  a decent picture of her.  That last weekend she had gotten necrotizing entercolitis, an infection in the gut that begins to eat away tissue.  It was invasive and acted quickly before they could.  The stress on her little body caused a massive hemorrhage in her brain and then a complete failure of her respiratory system.  The bleeding in her brain caused her head to be very dark and in the pictures, well, they’re hard to look at.  Elizabeth came across them one day not so long ago….. And she saw Hannah’s poor little body… Where they had intubated her they used tape.  And when they took off the tape, the skin of a premature baby is so delicate, it tore.  Her head was incredibly bruised.  As  a matter of fact even my most beloved friends and my family, including my mother and mother in law, have never seen pictures of their grand-daughter.  They aren’t something I’d share.  You have an instant recoil.  If you can get past it, I can, to see the face….. She looks like her sisters, so very, very much like all of her sisters.  She has the fine nose and the little doll lips.  She had dark hair and a bit of a narrow heart shaped face like Elizabeth.  I think she would have looked very much like Elizabeth Grace.

I hear now of all the things they have for mourning families and I think it’s an amazing ministry.   I pray that no one experiences the loss of a child.  But I am so very grateful that such ministries exist.   And I pray that if you know someone in the future that experiences loss, please, please, please contact them immediately and let them know such a place exists.  I look at the pictures they’ve taken and I am SO grateful that that nurse grabbed her camera that day or we would have nothing.  But oh what it would be like to have lovely pictures of her……  Something I could actually hang on my wall or carry with me.

I know that our family and friends were so far away.  And I know that they didn’t really experience her life or her death with us.   But if you could just let those mamas talk…….  They have such a need to talk.  To recognize that their babies DID exist.  They did live.  There isn’t a flow chart on the time it takes to mourn the loss of a child.  It takes a lifetime to mourn the loss of a child.  Every night as we bless our children, pray with our children, thank God for our children, we also thank Him for her.   Such a short life and yet it impacted us so greatly.

It is not so very long ago that a cousin lost his baby.   They were not prepared.  Is anyone?  I thought I could go to that wake and I wasn’t prepared for how hard it hit me.  From the moment I saw a coffin that looked like Hannah’s I started sobbing and couldn’t stop.  Later I felt a little odd and silly……. Eight years.  I thought that I had dealt with it.

And then tonight reading a story from a mama on Hyenacart that has just buried her little girl, and a couple months ago when another mama buried her daughter from HyenaCart, I just started sobbing all over again.

And there are times when I wonder…. Oh I don’t even know what I wonder.  I wonder if the time comes when you don’t cry.  And I wonder if that is even good or bad?

Am I still sad?  No, I don’t think so.  I’m not sad.  I’m not angry.  I’m not broken either.  I am thankful.  Not for her death, but how it’s changed me as a person, as a mother.   I’m thankful that I can console someone.   Or that I know to listen.   Or that I know that it’s okay for them to talk and I don’t have to say the right words.  Or that I know I don’t have to forget.  That it’s okay to remember her every single day of my life.  I’m grateful I’m a Christian and I have hope.  Hope and knowledge I’ll see her again, that I know where she is.

I’ll tell you a bit of a secret.  She is buried not too terribly far from here.  We had her buried in Iowa.  And we almost never visit.  I have family that visits her burial site far more often than we do.  They place statues and flowers and ornaments at the appropriate season.  They visit on Memorial Day and around Christmas.  And I don’t.  I don’t even feel compelled to…..  I know something they don’t.  She isn’t there.   Her life didn’t stop with burial.  The end is not a cold casket.  That is not all there is.

And in that I can find joy.  I will still mourn not knowing her….  What unique personality and quirks and joy she’d bring into our family.  But I have found joy beyond her death.  After all that isn’t all her life boiled down to.  Hannah Elizabeth wasn’t just about a death that occurred.  It was about a life that existed, a blessing given.   And for that gift, that blessing,  I am eternally grateful.

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