And Another Thing. . .

Related to yesterday’s post.

Trauma brings about its own memories. And they stay with us a loooooooooong time. I think that’s because when something happens, our senses are heightened. I read something once that was talking a bout this very thing from a biological standpoint. It was fascinating! I can’t remember where I saw it now, so I can’t link to it or even speak intelligently. But it has to do with the “fight or flight” response in a human’s mind, hormones, and emotions.

That’s why, years later, audio and scent cues can bring up the traumatic times again. You smell the perfume you wore at your prom, or hear a bit of the theme song, and it takes you right back to the emotions of the night.

There’s muscle memory too. The reason you remember how to ride a bike after years of not is because your muscles remember what they’re supposed to do. That’s also the reason that *ahem* a mama’s belly pooches out so much quickly in a third (fourth, fifth, sixth, . . .) pregnancy. Those muscles remember!

They told me when my baby was in the NICU that she would have no memory of that time. Well, The Bull and I only partly believe that. No, she probably doesn’t remember specific events. But we’re convinced that she DOES remember, something at least. Maybe she remembers feeling crappy or has a vague memory of the scent of a cleaning solution or the taste of a medicine, or something that she couldn’t put into words. Emotions?

She still sleeps with us (the latest of all of our calves to do so) and when she wakes alone she gets really upset. She clings to me in a way that the other children didn’t at this age. I think it’s more than an emotional bonding. I think it’s because of her days of alone in the hospital.

(And for my part, I’m usually more than  happy to be clung to. That’s because of the horrible days that I had to leave her in the hospital.)

Anyway during a seriously emotionally charged event–childbirth, car accident, ambulance ride to the hospital–you are more likely to remember EVERY DETAIL much more strongly. For a long time after my first husband’s death, it was like the events of part of that time would replay in my mind like a movie.

So every year, there’s a little bit of remembering that doesn’t go away. It was a seriously emotionally charged event.

Why do I need to share this kinda stuff? Why can’t I just do like everybody else and ignore it, or journal it, or pretend that the hard times never happened? What do other people do, anyway? What do you do to grieve, when the grief was years (or decades) ago?

Kinda makes me want to shut off my emotions so that there’s less hurt to go through to have to try to deal with. Sharing this stuff is too hard and people are dealing with their own stuff, they don’t want to be bothered with other peoples’ stuff.

(ETA: After figuring out what I wanted to say in this post and before posting, I found out a dear friend lost her baby in a very dramatic way March 13. My heart is aching all over again, knowing at least a little bit of the pain this family will be dealing with.)


21 Years

You’d think after all these years I could let it go. But it sticks with me. Still today I am remembering where I was, what I did, throughout that day. After getting the news. After going home. And then going to a friend’s, because I didn’t want to be by myself. The phone calls and the things that were said.

No, it doesn’t hurt as badly as it has in some years. Year One was dreadful. After a few years the pain began to fade, though the year after my miscarriage–my due date with that baby just happened to be March 14–it was severe again.

Maybe “letting go” or “moving on” isn’t about not remembering, not feeling. But clearly it’s not comfortable to remember with others.

I ran into an acquaintance today who I’ve not seen in years. She knows about my baby but had not met her yet.  “I  just can’t imagine!” she said, speaking of all we went through with her in the NICU. Shoot, I was there and I can’t imagine it, don’t want to remember it. “I just love the happy ending!” she said. I just wish it were possible to get the ending without having to go through the terrible time we had. Eight weeks in the NICU was no picnic.

Of course, when I brought that up, she seemed to want to change the subject.


Here’s to less painful memories in the future, or at least memories that I don’t feel I need to share with people.

Goodbye Cruel March

I cannot tell you how deliriously happy I am that March is coming to a close.  Goodbye, mad March.  Hello and Welcome!!  April’s got to be better!!

There are so many painful, difficult situations that have happened to me in March in years past (or not happened. . .) and this year it was just too hard to ignore them.  So much for “moving on,” as people have suggested.  “Getting over it” doesn’t seem possible.  It doesn’t seem to work for me.

It would seem that grief needs expression, whether it be 27 years (my parents’ divorce) or 19 years (my first husband’s death) or 2 years (my due date with my miscarried baby) later.

A quote from a dear friend comforted my heart this month:

“Aren’t we amazing that we have the capacity to feel and hold things so strongly after what seems like a long time. I think it must have something to do with being eternal, with God’s time, and the incredible power of love and how ever fiber of our being conforms to our experiences. Pain doesn’t just go away and people who think it does are probably holding it somewhere else and don’t realize it.”

Next year I think I must be more proactive in doing “something” to soothe my hurting heart this month before it gets too bad.  I don’t think I have the time, energy, or resources to create a foundation or anything that grand.

But maybe a daily, focused gratitude would be in order.  Or a list of his favorite things.  Or a daily joke.  Perhaps a comforting song every day.

I don’t know what, but something must be different next year.  I don’t want to repeat this year, next year!!

Suffering and Painted Skies

I was feeling run down, sick, and/or extra tired last night after dinner so I decided to spend a little quality time in the tub with a book.  (Oh, I was multi tasking–I was also “changing my hair color,” as my 7 year old said. Cause I like color!)

Anyway I bought this book 17 months ago (for just one cent!! score!) but it’s just been sitting in my reading pile, waiting.  Although I enjoy reading, I just don’t often; its takes too much time.  And if I get sucked into a book I can’t stop till it is finished, and that gets in the way of my sleeping. 😉

But I thought the time was right for this book.  It’s not long; I was able to read it all in one night.

Besides, I knew the basic story and I thought this might be helpful for me right now.

If you are familiar with my story,  you may remember that this time of year is especially difficult for me.  And every year I get to the beginning of February and I think that things are fine.  Then we get close to the second week of February and I remember that there is a certain date coming up and I try to brush it off. “Oh, it’s fine, it wont bother me this year.”

And then that date comes up and it smacks me upside the head like a bag of bricks.  It does bother me, every year.  I thought I was handling this well but maybe I’m not, even now, nineteen years later.

So I thought I might be able to read this book last night. Who knows, maybe I just needed a good cry.  And while I did enjoy the story, it’s the perspective in it that I needed more than anything.

The basic story is that the author’s wife unexpectedly died and later he remarries. It’s a common storyline and I’m sure that many people have a similar story.  It’s my story too.

What’s unusual is the ways that  the LORD comforted him during these hard times in their lives–throughout the cancer and financial worries and even losing his beloved wife.

About halfway through the book I knew I’d hit on something good, something I needed to remember.  So I grabbed my highlighter marker, the one I’d gotten from my late father-in-law, yellow with a door in the base that twists to open a compartment with skinny post-it flags.  I flagged four passages while reading last night and putting the baby to sleep.

And because I know I’m not the only one dealing with pain, disappointments, sorrows, etc., I thought I’d share them.

page 73: “Suddenly, I saw suffering as God’s way of removing life’s nonessentials in order to reveal what is true and lasting.”

No joke!  After losing my loved ones, I hold those remaining a little more tightly and try to cherish the time we are given even more.  I can ignore the sticky table and piled up laundry and junk covering the floor–if only for a few moments.  These can be attended to later. My children, my husband, my siblings, close friends and family . . . I know they won’t be here forever.

page 91: “Late one night when I was putting Jack to bed, it occurred to me that the times of greatest growth in my life always had been times of intense difficulty and suffering.  As I looked down at Jack’s tiny form in the moonlight, it pained me to think that he too would suffer someday. I wanted to hold him, shield him from the evil in the world and protect him from any harm. Those thoughts quickly evaporated as God reminded me in my spirit that He loved this child even more than I did.

“I wanted a godly son. And if what the Bible says is true, fire brings refined gold. I stayed up that evening, meditating on the relationship between those two truths . . .”

He goes on to tell of writing a song for his baby boy, a song about finding the LORD in brokenness, learning to stand and rise above the difficult circumstances in life.

Honestly, I struggle with this. I know so many people who are hurting, truly and terribly hurting right now.  I wish I could make things easier for my loved ones.  I wish life were not so difficult for them.  I know they will be better people for what they go through, but I wish this would happen without the painful parts!

page 132-33: Isaiah 58:6-12: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. ‘If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.’ “

I know this isn’t very deep (I would love to study this passage in greater depth but can’t spend the time right now!) but I’ve heard it said that some people help others because it makes them feel better.  Maybe this is part of this healing that is talked about here–part of God’s plan?

page 134, “As during Cydi’s cancer treatment years, pain again had stripped away the pretense in my life. I only wanted what was real and lasting: God. When I was weary and in pain, the only thing that brought me comfort was thoughts of Jesus and His mercy.”

When everything around me is falling apart, the things that I hold to closer are things of the LORD.  I’ve found comfort in knowing that the LORD loves me, that He will make things OK in the end.  That He is close to the brokenhearted.

Although sometimes my cynicism gets the best of me.  I know I’m not alone.  A song I found when pregnant with my littlest spoke so clearly about that for me. I’ll end with this tonight. I think it’s a beautiful way to bridge the gap between the tragedy and pain . . . and the hope and healing:

Hard to Get--by Rich Mullins
You who live in heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love
And who get hardened by the hurt
Do you remember when You lived down here where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread
Did You forget about us after You had flown away
Well I memorized every word You said
Still I'm so scared, I'm holding my breath
While You're up there just playing hard to get
You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that's not as patient as Yours was
Still we do love now and then
Did You ever know loneliness
Did You ever know need
Do You remember just how long a night can get?
When You were barely holding on
And Your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in Your sweat
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While You're up there just playing hard to get?
And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained
And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know
Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can't see what's ahead
And we can not get free of what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret
I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so You've been here all along I guess
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get

Oh man, I get it! I finally get it!

I’ve always wondered about why Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s message was so holy, so good, while Zechariah’s reaction left him mute.

Tonight we were doing our advent devotional (we are only a few days behind. . .) and I don’t know what version this is.  (But I’m too lazy to look it up, sorry.)

Zechariah:  “How can I know this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”  And then, of course, he said nothing else.  He couldn’t. (Luke 1.18)

Mary: “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”  And then Gabriel explains what will happen, and then she says: “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.” (Luke 1.34 and 38)


Zechariah’s response, paraphrased: “How can I know. . . “  Well, duh, if an angel came with a message from God, you can know God will do it. He’s like that, He keeps his promises.

Mary’s response, paraphrased: “How will it work?”  She’s asking to know what will happen, more details.  She believes it will happen but wants to know how she’ll know it’s about to come about.

And then, of course, after she gets these details, her reaction is “Sure. Let’s do it.”  Paraphrased, of course.  🙂

I’ve heard sermons for years about how she gave up her life dreams, hopes, plans for this big unknown of conceiving this Child.  At the very least, she would have understood that the attached strings had huge stigma.  Never before did I understand the hugeness of what she did.  Maybe she was looking forward to marrying her sweetheart, settling down into keeping house and raising a pile of children, first-century Nazareth style.  Being found to be pregnant before her wedding hijacked all of that.

And I keep wondering, would she have taken the trip to Bethlehem with Joseph had she not been pregnant?  She wouldn’t have needed to. She could have waited in her parents’ house for him to return to Nazareth from his trip.  When she was found to be pregnant, Joseph took her into his home early.  Who would have taken care of her while he was gone?  And by “taken care of,” I mean help her, fix the dishwasher when it breaks, haul the wet laundry to the clothesline, bring over dinner Friday night–not stone her.

Anyway, I personally don’t like to travel when pregnant, and that’s with a comfy van to drive and soft bed and easy-to-prepare food at each stop.  I hear that road conditions and accommodations in her travel route would have been much more, ah, rustic.

And even when the Bethlehem trip could have been over, they stayed there. Traveling pregnant would not have been fun. Traveling with a newborn or a one-year-old would not have been fun either.  And what would she be going home to- – a town where her reputation was somewhat tarnished?  Who would have accepted the Baby, knowing what they thought they knew about His parents?  Surely it was better for everyone involved that they stay away for a few years.

I wonder what her parents and siblings thought.  Being so far away from her home town, she effectively lost her family in a day before Facebook or email or even the U. S. Postal Service.  That’s if they would have accepted her or wanted to associate with her.

Of course, there is no way that she could have known all that would have happened in the future, all the stops that would have been different in her life because of the switch in the tracks.  And yet, Mary’s response reminds me of what Ann says: “All is grace!”  I am overwhelmed.  I don’t know that I could have said the same.

I haven’t said the same.

A flat tire?  I throw a fit.  A sick child rearranging my schedule?  I grumble and groan and get frustrated.  An unexpected move? I balk.

An unexpected end to a pregnancy?  Ouch.  My first reaction is, usually, to try to fight for what I want. (Like that would help?!)

While we were doing this devotional, my oldest asked me to spell out a particular verse. (verse 37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”)  I told him to look on the previous page of the devotional and he refused.  A moment before when we asked what he would do if God told him to do something other than what he wanted to do he said, of course, he would do what God wanted.  But he won’t even do what I tell him to do.

And I am the same way.  How can I help him to accept it all as grace, if I cannot?

I hope that I can remember this at the next fork in the road.  We all need it.

Sweet Thoughts on a Sunday

On Friday I was looking up the kids’ names in a baby name book.  (We named them after people who have been important in our lives, or people we like, not based on the name’s meaning.)    I looked up our little baby girl’s name, although I already knew what it meant.

What I didn’t know was that her name is a symbol for victory!  It struck me as being wonderfully significant–a victory of having, holding a baby after losing one in miscarriage.

That would have been enough, but there’s more. . .

Saturday morning the girls and I left to run a few errands.  There on the radio was one of my favorite songs, “Redeemer,” by Nicole C. Mullen.

A few lines popped out at me.  In an audio sense I mean. 🙂

“The very same God that spin things in orbit
runs to the weary, the worn, and the weak
and the same gentle hands that hold me when I’m broken
they conquered death to bring me victory!”

And I know that this song is talking about the LORD’S victory over death and sin that we celebrate every Easter. . . but on a personal level, it is a lovely realization that He conquered death in my life (miscarriage) and brought me Victory (Calf #5.)

It had been a long, rough pregnancy last year and the fear of miscarrying again was huge.  Add to that scary symptoms that I’d not experienced in other pregnancies and a boatload of family difficulties and changes.  I am so grateful for this little Victory Girl and for a sweet little realization.

When Does It End?


Got this lovely little card in the mail a few weeks ago.  It was a busy day, lots of mail, and it struck me as odd.  Yes, I get a lot of coupons in the mail, but why would they be send this postcard now?  Our baby girl won’t have her first birthday till December.   Strange.  I didn’t have time to think about it then so I stuffed it in with the other coupons and forgot about it.

Until this week, when I was cleaning out the coupon folder.  Then I remembered this odd little card.  I asked The Bull about it.

“It’s for Shelomith?” he asked.

And then it hit me.  Yes, we would have had a nearly one year old right now.

Ouch.  😦

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