Eleven Years: Lesson #9 – Tears are Cleansing.

Eleven Years: Lesson #9 – Tears are Cleansing.

Lesson #9:  Tears are cleansing.

Two months before Dustin and I were to be married, we went to the beach with my family.  And whilst at the beach, we went to the movies with my mom (my mom loves a good movie) and saw the feature film, “Finding Nemo.”

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Spoiler Alert:  Nemo’s mother died in the first five minutes. Maybe in the first 30 seconds of the movie.

Which is one of the easiest ways to turn on my tear faucet.

Then I begin to understand that this fish is a special needs fish (gimp fin) and I became a basket case.

I have always had a big heart for the underdog.

And then I watch as he suffers and struggles to find his dad and all I wanted was justice for my little striped friend.

Just let him find his dad!  HE NEEDS HIS DADDY!!!

And praise the Lord for Dory because if it had not been for her comic relief, I would have done the ugly cry for the duration of “Finding Nemo.”

Let’s just say that by the time the movie ended, I was sobbing so loudly that I am pretty sure that Dustin was reconsidering his engagement to this emotional wreck.

I remember leaving the movie theatre unconsolable and going into the crowded bathroom and having to use a crisp paper towel to blow my nose.

As I exited the theatre, I was still sniffling with red eyes and I remember someone asking me what movie I had seen.

Through tears I began to sob again, “Fi-inding Nee-moooo!”
And I cried most of the way back to our condo.  With Dustin sitting up front with mom and asking me what was wrong and mom just telling him to give me a few minutes.

When I finally got my tears under control, I explained to him that seeing the struggle and the heartache (that I perceived) just broke me.  I do not like for anyone to have a struggle.  I don’t like for anyone’s mother to die.  Or father.  Or anyone!

Basically, I have always dreamt of a bubble that me and all my people could live in safely and live happily ever after.

Don’t worry – there have been plenty of events that have popped my “bubble.”

I was so encouraged by the words of Granger E. Westberg, “Emotion is essential to a persona and to try to repress it is to make one less than a person.”

Granger also says, “To bottle it up unnecessarily is to do ourselves harm.  We ought to express the grief we feel.  Some will be too embarrassed to grieve openly; they can go off by themselves and let their grief take its natural course in any of a variety of ways.”

When you have tears to cry, let them flow.

When you have frustrations to vent, let them vent.

“Grieve not as those who have not hope…” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

And Westberg adds, “but for goodness’ sake, grieve when you have something worth grieving about!”

 

 

Eleven Years: Lesson #8 – Grief is…

Eleven Years: Lesson #8 – Grief is…

Lesson #8:  Grief is real, grief is hard, grief is good. 

I took several spiritual gift tests when I was a younger version of myself.  And I would always score relatively closely on four of the five gifts.

But there was one gift that I barely scored any points on.  Every single time.

Mercy.

Oh sweet mercy.

My younger self would look at a problem and then just shrug my shoulders and say unsympathetic things like:

  • “God will work it for His good.”
  •  “Get over it.”
  • “God’s plans are awesome.  Trust Him.”
  • “No need for tears.”
  • “Buck up.”

Basically, I was everything you would want in a Christian counselor.

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I thank the Lord for my personal pain and suffering because if nothing else, it has caused my gift of mercy to increase (or to actually show up).

Through the hours, days, weeks and years since Daniel’s short life, I have experienced grief like I never knew it before.
And I can relate and give so much more mercy than my younger self ever could.  Oh my word.  I am so grateful for understanding grief.
Grief is hard.  It will wear you out even if all you do is barely get out of bed each day.  It can make you feel like you cannot put one foot in front of the other

Grief is real.  The feelings that you experience after a loss are so extremely real.  And hard.  And difficult.  And amazingly undesirable.

Grief is good.

As hard as it is to experience a loss on this earth, I am convinced that God absolutely can use it for His good as it promises in Romans.

Would I have chosen grief?  No way.

Would I have chosen heartache?  Nope.

Would I have chosen to bury my son on a snowy day?  Not on a snowy day or a sunny one.

But because I have been able to turn my eyes to the Lord and tell Him of my heartache and my grief and hurt, He has been able to help me through my sadness.

He has taken what was broken and has healed me.

Now there are still scars that will always tell the story of what God has been doing in my life, but praise the Lord that He has walked with me on this journey and it is my prayer that by sharing where I have been and where I am now, He may be glorified.

And that if you find yourself in the midst of grief now, you will turn your eyes to the Lord who can heal your brokenness, who wants to heal your broken heart, who loves you and never leaves you.

And if I could offer you counsel, I would remind you that God will use your story if you will turn to Him and offer it all to Him for His glory.

“And we know that for those who love God all thing work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

 

Eleven Years: Lesson #7 – Being a Mom is HARD WORK!

Eleven Years: Lesson #7 – Being a Mom is HARD WORK!

Lesson #7:  Being a Mom is HARD WORK whether your child in here on earth with you or if they are in heaven. 

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In anticipation for a second child, I had a mental list of how I could handle the double-diaper duty that was forthcoming.

  • Larger diaper bag.  (Polka dots, please)
  • Large Stash of Wipes (Cucumber Melon and Green Tea scent, please)
  • Sets of reusable bags for the multiple outfits I would need to carry with me everywhere.
  • Sets of washable bags for the dirty clothes that would follow me home.
  • Boy clothing (blue/red/green sleepers and a suit for special occasions)
  • A bow tie (insert the excited clapping hands here…I love a good bow tie)

I knew how much work it was to remember all the things for my first little lady as an only child.  And I will be the first to admit that I am pretty sure I carried with me way more than I really needed…first time mother problems…they are real!

If we were to discuss Enneagram types again, I would tell you that I have a strong 5 wing…a 5 thinks about things very logically…

And I was thinking about mothering two children extremely logically at this point.  Ruthie needed to stay in the crib for a while longer and the little lad could just use the pack ‘n play in our bedroom until the crib was available for him.

This second child did not need as many outfits as his sister had had.  (Boy vs. girl problems, right!?!)

The little boy would sleep just as well as his sister had.  (I know, I know.  I am rolling my eyes at my younger self, too.)

Basically, I was trying to plan to make what could have been considered a little chaotic a little less stressful for my life.

So even though Daniel never came home and I never had to keep diapers or outfits for him in my diaper bag, I found mothering him to be a different kind of hard.

No longer were my tasks to train him to obey or to tee-tee in the potty, or settle himself to sleep, my task was to let him go to the One who held my little boy in His arms.

Oh, and the letting go was harder than the holding on.  At least for me.

I so wanted that little boy to have in my arms.  To see him fish with his daddy and pick on his sisters.

And subsequently train to love/protect his sisters instead of/in addition to picking on them.

But since his death, eleven years ago, I have learned that much of parenting is more about letting go and letting God than it is about me controlling and orchestrating.

God is a much better parent than I ever hope to be.

He loves my children way more than I ever could.

And thankfully everyone in my house is a child of God.  We all have an amazing Heavenly Father who loves us.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21

Eleven Years: Lesson #6 – My Husband is Amazing!

Eleven Years: Lesson #6 – My Husband is Amazing!

Lesson #6:  My Husband is AMAZING!!!DSCN1548

When I was a twenty-year younger version of myself, I made a list of qualities I would like in a potential husband.

Yes, I included eye color (blue/green…I had always wanted blue/green eyes…I even tried the contacts, but there is no covering up these brown peepers).

I wished for a man who could play the guitar and lead worship.

There were other characteristics I put on my list and then I asked the Lord to provide a man who would talk to my dad first and not just want to date for the heck of dating…but would want to date because he felt we were meant to be together.

I basically gave God a list of what I wanted in a husband and wished Him luck in delivering such a specimen.

And then accepted the fact that I would be single for all my days and decided to become a youth minister.

When Dustin went to talk to my dad (unbeknownst to me) a few years later, I was flabbergasted.  And while I could tell you stories of how I avoided him for a long time and told him I didn’t have a peace about telling him to jump in a lake and I wouldn’t promise marriage, but if that did work out, we would have Santa Claus for our children…I won’t bore you with those details.

That isn’t the point of this blog post.

A girl in a Bible study I was leading at the time reminded me of my list of qualities after Dustin came to my dad and then to me.  I was overwhelmed with the possibility that this guy might be the one for me.

Might be…key words.  It took me a while to warm up to Dustin.
*Sigh*

So long story short, I married a greenish/blueish eyed, worship leader, who not only plays the guitar, but plays every instrument (and all without reading music…it is so amazing/frustrating) and has dark hair…though it is graying (I LOVE IT!).

Just to be clear, I love gray hair on him.  Not me.

Above, Dustin’s physical qualities, I knew when we married that he had a solid foundation.  Like his life was built upon a rock.  The rock of Christ and a family who is a rock.  He really amazed me with his knowledge and his heart for the Lord.

Fast forward a few years and a few lessons in trusting my husband later, our son died.  And all of a sudden, I was incapable of doing anything.

And in my weakness, this man that I had married, showed up and cared for me and our daughter and made decisions that I never wanted him to have to make.

While he is typically a quiet person, he knows what to say and when to say it.  And I thank the Lord today that he married me almost fifteen years ago.  The Lord knew that we would compliment each other.  That we would be able to be strength for the other when we each felt weak.

I praise the Lord that Dustin is who he is.  That he is an amazing leader in our home and a thoughtful protector.

The Lord brought us together and the Lord continues to help us to grow closer to each other and to Himself.  And we both praise Him for it all.

“Praise the Lord, O my soul!  I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my  God while I have my being.”  Psalm 146:1

11 Years: Lesson #5 – Girls are awesome!

11 Years: Lesson #5 – Girls are awesome!

IMG_7132One day we were standing in the line at our local Walmart, the three little ladies and myself, when a voice behind us said, “Are you going to try again for a boy?”

Never had I met this man before in my life.  I am pretty sure our circles would NEVER cross except for the fact that we shopped at the same Walmart.

While I was debating in my head what to say to this neighborly person, my Lee-Girl said confidently, “I have a brother – my brother is in heaven.”

Then her big eyes waited for this unsuspecting man to respond.

I just smile, an “I am sorry, but it’s true” sort of smile at him.

Now we had made the poor fellow feel quite awkward.   Read more

11 Years: Lesson #4

11 Years: Lesson #4

After our 20-week ultrasound that confirms Daniel’s gender, Dustin had to have a serious talk with me.  He sat me down and told me this:

“You have to teach Daniel to call his boy parts by the right name.”

I just looked in horror as he explained that it was important that he knew all of his male parts’ correct names.  

And since he would be at work during the business days, I needed to reinforce this.   No calling anything a “weenie.”

No, sir.   We at the Dustin Petrey household were going to use the “P” word.  

And clearly I still have issues with using that word.  

I don’t apologize.    

Anyway, after Daniel died, I remember crying out to the Lord, ” I would have taught him that it was a penis!”   

I just wanted my baby!   

In subsequent years, when folks would have baby boys, I would be happy for them from afar.   I didn’t want to hold these boys until they were older and did not resemble a baby…because it hurt too much to hold a baby and a boy.   

Now I am okay with baby boys, though I might tear up a smidge.  And honestly, God has brought a few little fellows into my life who I love with all my heart.   Here are two of them:

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I never held these guys when they were in the hospital, but they come visit me quite often nowadays and bring with them the most wonderful of times.  And I am so grateful that they are my nephews and that they remind me often that they too wish that Daniel was here on earth so they could play with him.   

Lesson #4:  Boys (and their anatomy) are okay.   

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”  Psalm 127:3

11 Years: Lesson #3

11 Years: Lesson #3

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I am either a five with a six wing or a six with a five wing on the enneagram. If you don’t know about the enneagram that last sentence just sounded like a foreign language you can’t speak.

Translation: I need time to process and I need security.

 

So when Daniel died and we met with the funeral home, I was overwhelmed at the thought of a receiving of friends…I wasn’t even sure what had just happened.  I could not process the comments and affections from publicly opening up this Life Celebration to the public.

So instead we asked that the obituary not show up in the paper (does anyone still get a newspaper?) until after the funeral was over.

We only invited our family and close friends to the funeral. About eighty people or so.

And I asked our church family not to call me. Someone else served as a liaison between me and the meal coordination…I just couldn’t handle it.

And then I started feeling lonely. Because it wasn’t like I had just asked everyone and their brother to leave me alone or anything…

Lesson #3: Even when you feel lonely, you are not alone.

This may seem like the most obvious message of all times…but it took me a while to remember that God was with me even when I felt like no one remembered me or my pain.

I am going to make a statement here that you may disagree with…and that is totally fine.

Here it is: I don’t believe that God planned for Daniel to die…I think He allowed it to happen and all the while He was saying to me, “I am here.” “Let me help you.”

We live in a fallen world and unfortunate things happen a lot.

Like babies dying.

And yet, God walks with us and I have learned to look to Him when I need to process the world around me.

And sometimes I gain understanding.

Other times, my faith grows because I can not understand the whys or whens of events that happen in this fallen world.  And that is okay…I have had to learn to be okay with the unknown because I trust the known God..

Because none of this is a surprise to God.  And He has never left me to walk this life or process its events by myself.

And I can praise Him for that.

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:17-18

“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”  Psalm 16:8

“And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

“Blessed be the Lord!  For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.  The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.  The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.  Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!  Be their shepherd and carry them forever.”  Psalm 28:6-9

11 Years: Lesson #2

11 Years: Lesson #2

I love projects.  I love to make Christmas gifts.  I love to sew simple projects (key word: simple).  I love planning events, sometimes even weddings.

I love when something needs to be done and I can contribute to the completion of that project.

I love looking at that finished sewing project or cleaning up after a successful wedding.  That feeling of a job well done is wonderful!

I think I looked at motherhood as another one of these projects.  Like I would have all these babies and be their mother and it would be so fun to look back on the finished product.

To see our little offsprings.  (Yes, I know that is not a word, but I do love to pluralize words that shouldn’t be…it’s drives my English-minor husband crazy.  He loves me!)

All in color-coordinated outfits.

Then I had this son, who couldn’t breath on his own.  Who didn’t open his eyes.  Who never moved a limb.

I wanted him to cry even if it was all night long.  I wanted him to flail his arms and legs even if it busted my upper lip.  I wanted him to run and jump and play (even if it might have been in the mud)!  I wouldn’t even have minded if he practiced his aim while I was changing diapers…

I just wanted him.

And I couldn’t complete this project like I wanted.  I could not get the end results no matter how hard I tried.   I would never have a wonderful feeling of having done this job well…

That’s when lesson #2 became a reality:

Lesson #2: There are things I cannot do and there are times when I need to do nothing.

Besides being unable to help my son live physically, there were so many things I realized that I could not do.

I could no longer think clearly or straight.  My brain went into a foggy mode and it was hard to do anything.  My thoughts all revolved around this little boy and his sister who I probably hugged too tightly and too much, but I would argue that is not even possible.  Too many hugs?

Nope.  Not for my children.

I no longer looked at a project and thought, “Oh how awesome, I would love to do that!”  It would be years before I felt ready to take on another new project.

And in the subsequent years when I had my youngest two daughters, I will tell you that my confidence level was so low.  I was so afraid of losing another child.  Of all the unknowns.  Life just wasn’t fair anymore.

And in my lack of confidence, the Lord gently reminded me of what is true.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13

I don’t have to perform for his approval.

Those feelings of a job well-done were self-centered…and I needed to turn myself upward and see that it was always Him doing things through me…not me.  If He hadn’t given me the gifts He did, I could not do the jobs He gives me to do well.

I don’t have to be the best.  Though I should give everything my best effort.

I don’t have to have the best.  Though I should be wise with my investments and the care thereof.

I don’t have to be busy all the time.  Though God will give me the strength I need when He calls me to a busy season.

What I do have to be is in tune with the Lord as He leads me each and every day.  And many times, He will say, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Or My grace is sufficient for you.”  “Do not worry about tomorrow.”  “Seek my kingdom first.”

And it is in being still and not being overly busy/productive that I am able to rest in the arms of the Savior who loves me and made me.

Scripture never tells us that God’s love is conditional on our performance.  He loves us for who we are…His Creation.

And that is enough.  I cannot do it all.  Nor was I meant to do it all.  I was meant to be a reflection of the One who made me.  And in order to reflect Him, I must be near Him at all times.

Reflect on these promises today and let yourself relax in the presence of a Holy and loving God.

“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”  Psalm 16:8

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts and I am helped…” Psalm 28:7

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 35:17-18

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the lord and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”  Proverbs 3:5-8

11 Years: Lesson #1

11 Years: Lesson #1

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the day when sweet Daniel was lifted from my womb into a world full of medical providers who would monitor him closely for the 36 hours he lived on earth.

Eleven years ago, January 26th was on a Friday.  And today, being a Friday seems hard to walk through my normal activities without remembering exactly where I was and who was with me on that day.   ELEVEN YEARS AGO!

Here is a picture of me about this same time (3pm on that Friday):

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The first time I saw and touched Daniel.

While time has/does heal all wounds, there are some scars that you never can forget the story to.  I am not the same person that I was eleven years and one day ago.  And praise God that I have grown closer to Him and understand more fully His love and grace today than my 27 year-old self ever did.

Yes, I just told you my age.

And even though I have been an absent blogger for, oh say, the last three months, I want to share eleven things that I have learned in the last eleven years thanks to the heartache of my son’s home being in heaven and thanks to a Heavenly Father who never gave up on me or my emotions or my broken heart.

So for those of you who are subscribed to this blog, you will get a notification for the next ten days because here is number one:

Lesson #1: Life is a gift.

Read more

How’s your class going?

How’s your class going?

Someone asked me about the class I was in the other Sunday at church saying, “How’s your class going?”

I looked at her startled…I didn’t know I was in school again?  (Other than my normal homeschooling duties where I am learning much!)

Then she reminded me that we are helping facilitate a group for parents who have experienced a baby/infant loss.

Oh, that class…

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Since then many others have asked so I thought I would give you an update:

The class (from my perspective) has been wonderful.  It is the perfect size to be safe for folks to share their hurts and I truly believe that healing is taking place for many of the people in our group.

It’s like we have said so many times (and will say again), you will never get over your loss (or under it or around it), but you will get through it.  And having the support of a group of people who have experienced the loss of a baby/infant is wonderful.

We still have three weeks of meeting and sharing and loving on each other and I have to say…I am excited.  This has been a group that we all felt we needed and the people attending have been brave enough to open up about their griefs.  To be able to be real and to share with others is truly a gift from God.

So thank you to all who have been praying for our group, please continue to do so.  We will meet three more times before Thanksgiving.  I am excited to see what God will do in and through it all!