Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Foundations


This is the view outside our front window.

It looks like nothing, right? Just an empty lot.

However, a month ago, a house stood here.  A house that had been here for many years.

It was a strong, brick house that sat on an equally strong foundation.

The house that lived here caught fire a couple of months ago. We came up upon fire trucks on our way home one night. The house seemed to only need a roof repair, but obviously the fire damaged much more within the house than we could see from the outside. After the fire, it sat there with plastic covering the hole in the roof. It was quiet for some time, until a huge piece of machinery pulled up one freezing January morning. Lots of other large trucks would soon follow with, what looked like, giant dumpsters.

And, just like that, the house was demolished. It only took a couple of good hits with the crane of the machine and the house was crumbling down. I thought about how long it took to build that house ... months, maybe longer. But, within thirty minutes, the house was gone, totally destroyed.
I sent my husband a text with that sentiment and said, "that'll preach."

And, it has been "preaching" to me every time I look out of that window.
It takes years to build up your faith, your life, everything you have. And, the longer you serve God, the stronger your faith should become. But, in a matter of minutes, it could all be destroyed. It could all be knocked down. Life is like that. It's unpredictable. What will be around the next corner? What choices will I make when life does hit me hard? How will my choices affect the rest of my life and those around me?

The trucks left for the day and the only thing remaining was the foundation, that good, old concrete slab that holds it all together, and makes that home stand firm. Again, I thought, "that'll preach." After all that happened, the foundation stood. The foundation remained.

Except there was one tiny problem in my illustration.

You see, the next day, that same piece of machinery ripped up the foundation. I didn't even know a foundation could be ripped up. I just assumed a new house would be built on top of the foundation that remained.

Well, that's not the case. And, this blew my theory of how strong foundations can be.

I thought about everything I'd ever heard concerning firm foundations in regards to my faith. And, I came to this realization ... sometimes the foundation is faulty. Sometimes the foundation has cracks in it. It's damaged. It needs to be pulled up. The soil needs to be prepared again and the new foundation laid.

These past years almost destroyed me. Thank God for the truth that remained in my foundation, in my heart.  Thank God I knew Him. But, know this, no matter how long a person has served God, their "house" can be shaken, knocked down, burned to the ground, simply demolished. And, yes, even their foundation won't stand up to what they're facing.

Some of the things that were a part of my "foundation," if you will, were faulty. There were some cracks. The cracks are actually what I'm working with God on rebuilding now. I will never assume I am strong enough to take on anything ever again, no matter how many years I've known God and how much Bible knowledge I have. Even after all these years, I'm still learning. I'm still growing. I'm still loving God as hard as I can. And, I know His hand is never too far for me to reach.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Finding My Place

I don't fit in anymore. It's true.
I can't seem to find my place.

It's the strangest feeling. Typically, I'm the fun one, the friendly one, the one with the sparkling personality ... yeah, that was me. Grief and loss have changed me forever.

I have this indescribable aching in my heart. Yes, it's still there. It was five months yesterday that my sweet girl went to be with Jesus, leaving us here alone. And, I feel more alone now than I ever have.

I sit here with tears streaming down my face even as I type this.

Grief is the hardest thing I've ever had to walk through. The thing that is comforting to me, believe it or not, is knowing I'm not the only one. There are so many others reeling from the loss of a child. It actually helps me to know that there are others like me and that I can get wisdom from them as they walk through the same thing. I think we all breathe a sigh of relief when we meet someone or hear from someone who has been through similar tragedies.

But, mostly I find myself alone.
Alone. It's become where I feel most at home.
Alone is where I feel most comfortable.
It's where I fit in right now.

I don't have to put on a happy face. I can cry on the floor of my bedroom and no one will try to comfort me or pick me up. I can get on my knees and just talk to God about all this. I know He's here with me. I ask for His help 24/7. I don't even have to ask anymore, He recognizes my gasps for air and knows I need Him at that very moment.

Despite the fact that I can be surrounded by people, I still feel alone. I still don't fit in. Really anywhere. 

I'm trying to be okay with that. I think this is going to be my new "normal." I'm learning to cope with the fact that I could be surrounded by friends and family, conversation and laughter, but, inside, I'm alone. My mind is racing back and forth ... memories of Katie and our lives the last few years. My heart could be aching in the midst of laughter actually. Who wouldn't want to hang out with me, right?! Geez. I'm sure I'm loads of fun.

I have to laugh though. I just have to. I try to laugh as much as I can.
My heart can't take all this sadness.

But, honestly, sorrow has been my closest friend for the last five months. He's always there, whether I want him around or not. I pray for the day that we can be more like acquaintances and not bffs.

I write all this not for you to pity me. Please ... I do NOT want your pity.

This is what grief is like, day in and day out. I write to give you an inside glimpse into a life of grief. I write also as my own personal therapy. Thanks for sitting in this session with me. I know that there will come a day when grief will not be all I write about. I write also because there will come a day when you will experience it too. It's a given. The Bible says that there is a time to grieve. 


But, the good news is that the opposite end of that verse says that there's also a time to dance. 

I don't do much dancing nowadays. But, gosh ... one day, I want to. I long to dance and laugh. I long to not feel alone. I long to fit in. I long to find my place.

But, right now, I simply wait.
I wait for God to do what He will with me.
I wait to see the end of this story.
I wait, most of all, to see my Katie, standing with Jesus on that last day.

Thank you for being patient with me as I wait, as I grieve, and as I write all about it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Catching My Breath

Some days I find it hard to simply catch my breath.

One tiny moment can change my day. 

I feel like I'm suffocating.

It comes so unexpectedly.
Out of nowhere, the flood hits.
It crashes over me, leaving my gasping for air.

"I can't breathe, I can't breathe," I say.
"Help me, Lord."

The tears pour out of my eyes.
I gasp more.
I still can't breathe.

I attempt long breaths, but they don't come easy.
I moan as if I've been deeply wounded, as if I'm dying.
For a brief moment, I think death might be easier than this pain.
The pain is unbearable. 
The aching in my heart feels like my chest has been ripped open and someone is tearing it to shreds.

It always hits when I'm alone.

Today, it happened again.
It was brought on by a song.
A song I listened to and sang to the Lord over and over again in the last year.
One note. One word. And, I'm down. I'm drowning and the waves of grief begin. 

I have two choices:
Get out of the water or dive into the grief.

Today, I chose to dive. It hurts so much to dive in.
It's much easier to get out of the water, get away from what triggered the wave, switch gears, refocus my mind, bury it to be dealt with at another time. But, today, I couldn't.

The song put me back in time, back to moments with my girl, but mostly, moments with the Lord, begging for my girl's healing here on earth. It was all so vivid ... all those days, that particular song was playing, and I told the Lord how much confidence and faith I had in Him ... how I knew that just the mention of the name of Jesus would change everything and should change everything.

And, then I'm gasping for air again.

The pain of loss is unshakeable. Grief is unpredictable. It's like a cloud hanging over you all day. Sure, you can live with that cloud. It's just there. It's always there, but you never know when the rain or lighting will hit. You never know what could trigger it to storm.

The drowning begins.
The gasping begins.
I just try to catch my breath and steady my heart. 
I know that I can't do this on my own.

I have to have Jesus.
I have to have hope.
I have to know that I will see her again.

That's how grief feels. It leaves you breathless. It causes you to work as hard as you can just to get your breath back. 

It's something we never "get over."
It's something we will live with until that final day.
And, in that moment, the hope I have will finally be reality.



Friday, December 1, 2017

Warts

Warts are so disgusting. 
I envision frogs and witches' noses any time I think of them.
They're simply hideous.

Well, as luck would have it, I have developed a wart on the bottom of my heel. Not just your everyday, run-of-the-mill wart, but a plantar wart. It's been months since I noticed this lump and questioned what in the world it could be. I had never had one of these things and surely it couldn't be a wart because I was not a person who got warts or would ever get a wart. Turns out, I was wrong.

This thing hurts like the dickens, y'all. It's become difficult for me to stand for long periods because of how painful it is. It's just a freaking wart. It's just a step above a hangnail. Or so I thought. How can something so small hurt so bad??

Why do I tell you this?
Well, I became familiar with the plantar wart during one of Katie's longer stints in the PICU at Texas Children's Hospital. It, too, developed on the bottom of her foot. Hers was right in the middle of the ball of her foot, which had to be the worst spot for someone learning to walk again.

She suffered for months, closer to a year with this thing. You see, getting rid of a wart (caused by a virus) is much more difficult in an immune-compromised person.

We froze the heck outta that thing. Katie would scream and cry when we had to deal with it. She would complain daily that her foot hurt. Simply walking was difficult. But, she did it.

Because Katie tended to lean on the dramatic side, I often questioned the validity of her tears and screams as we tried to get rid of it.  I would say, "Katie, of ALL that you've been through, this is the most minor issue, yet you act like we're killing you." She stuck to her guns that this wart was one of the most painful things ever. In her defense, it was quite large. Of course, we knew it hurt, but geez ... taking care of it was like torture to her and us.

I find it quite ironic that a couple of months after she passed, I developed this plantar wart on my foot. I chuckle to myself every time I feel the twinge of pain it causes. I see Katie all around me, but this is such a unique reminder of my amazing girl. It kinda feels like a joke, like a "I told you so." Obviously, I know she can't cause something like this, but the irony in this is quite ridiculous.

How she walked with this thing on her foot, as weak as she was, is beyond me! It's another testament of her tenacity for sure. But, most of all, a reminder of her strength to me. Not just daily, but with every single step I take.

In a way, this ugly, painful wart is a reminder of such a beautiful, precious life.

As I try to rid myself of this pesky thing, I realize that the virus that causes it is what I have to overcome. I have to get to the root and deal with the virus. It's the same way with the grief that fills my days. I can't just cover the wart up and hope it'll go away. I have to treat it. I have to do whatever I have to do to get it out.

There are definitely days I avoid dealing with the grief simply because my heart can only take so much. There are days I replace every thought of the last few years with other stuff. I distract myself because I fear some moments I won't be able to come out of. There are days I just tell God how much I miss her, that I need Him to help me heal. The problem is that this won't ever heal on this side of eternity. It'll only get "more bearable" is what I've heard from others.

As the days go by, and holidays are in full-force, I miss Katie more now than ever. She shared my love and excitement for Christmas more than anyone else in the family. I know that it's going to be difficult not having her here with us. Nothing is the same. Everything has changed.

But, I know that God will carry us through, yet again. 

Even when I don't know what to say to Him, He knows what I need.


Sidenote: Be on the lookout for a brand-new website coming up in the new year, along with our book, "Still Rising." Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Talking About It

That's what you're supposed to do, right?

When bad things happen, things that you're hurt about, frustrations, anger ... really, any difficult life circumstances that happen, you're supposed to talk about them.

You're supposed to do that because a) it gets things off of your chest, b) it helps you heal, c) other people can learn from your stuff. I'm sure there are other reasons why, but that's what I get just off the top of my head.

I do talk about it.
"It," being the last two-and-a-half years of our life ... the trauma, the tragedy, the loss of our daughter.

I need to talk about it.
And, I need for people not to be weird when I do bring up my daughter.
She will always be my daughter. She will always be a part of my life.

I need to be able to share stories about her, good and bad. But, mostly, good.
Good times. Things she did. Things she said. Who she was.
It's only natural that I reference her in conversation, but you don't have to feel uncomfortable when I do. Really, you don't. It's okay. And, if I tear up (which I probably won't because I'm getting so much better at not doing that), it's still okay.

I hate it that you might feel uncomfortable, because I'm not uncomfortable talking about her at all. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I feel relief when I'm able to talk about her to someone who is totally comfortable listening to me and even sharing stories of their own.

Don't think that I talk about our Katie all the time. I don't. You can invite us to stuff and hang out with us. We can talk about other things. But, there may be a moment where it's only normal when you mention something about your kids that I mention mine.

People who have lost someone close to them need to have the freedom to talk about those they've lost. They have to have friends who will let them just share and talk. It's not for you to try to comfort them. Not at all. You don't have to try to say anything that you think might make them feel better. They don't expect you to and what you have to say will just sound trite.
Talking about those you've lost is all a natural part of grieving. If you're not talking about them, you're not dealing with the grief at all.

Grieving is not just anguish and tears, but also finding joy in the midst of your deepest longing.

Tomorrow night, my husband and I will talk and share about Katie, openly with friends and strangers alike,  for the first time since her death. There is so much to say, not only about her, but about our life the past few years. 
(If you're in the Lafayette area, we'd love for you to join us.)

I have to admit that I'm a little anxious about this because it's such a massive heart issue for us. I'm no stranger to public speaking, but this time, it's different. I want to be able to honor this amazing girl in a way that she would be proud of. I will try not to cry, only because crying makes people uncomfortable. For me, it's not uncommon and become a part of my daily routine to get a little misty-eyed here and there. But, I will do my best not to so that the message of Katie's life and faith can be heard through it all.

It's been a little over three months since she's been gone. It's not necessarily getting easier; it's becoming different. The longing to see her again is stronger than ever. The hole she left behind is enormous. We talk about her less than we used to throughout the day, which makes me sad. I don't ever want to forget a moment with her. So, I will still talk about her. Just let me. And, just know ... it's okay.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Not Only Today, But Every Day

Today would've been my sweet girl's 17th birthday.

Today will be hard.

But, not just today. Every day.

I'd like to tell you it's getting easier. It's not. It's becoming different.

Everything around still reminds me of her.
All day. Every day. The thoughts of her ebb and flow.

I saw the new seasonal fall Pop Tarts on display at Walmart, and I thought of her and how she would beg me to pick up chocolate ones. I didn't get them often. But, when she was going through her chemo (conditioning phase) before her bone marrow transplant, I bought them to urge her to eat. And, after she ate them, she proceeded to vomit them up, saying she wouldn't want those again for a long time.

All the fall decor around me reminds me of her. She loved fall. 


She loved carving pumpkins. She loved dressing up for Halloween, and won the costume contest at our church nearly every time she dressed up.
This was the last time she was able to attend that church event.

But, by far, these two costumes were my faves ... Eve and Wonder Woman (before she was all famous again).


I thought of her as the premiere for "This is Us" came on last week and how anxious she was to see it. We cried our eyes out together watching the first season.

I find it difficult to listen to Billy Joel. She wore his albums out. It was strange for a teenager to love him and all the other '70s/'80s music she loved. Almost every single song I hear brings her to my memory.

I put on and wear a piece of her jewelry every day. Sometimes I catch myself unconsciously rubbing  the pendant or charm on the necklace, reminding me of her once again.

Smells remind me of her. I wear her One Direction perfume. That's probably weird that a forty-something-year-old woman wears One Direction perfume, but it smells like her. It's the same way with many of the Bath and Body Works' lotions and body washes. She was big into scents, including essential oils which she always wanted me to diffuse in the hospital room. All these smells remind me of her daily.

I get mail from Texas Children's Hospital. I get all the "parents of ..." mail. Until recently, I was still getting Houston Independent School District automated phone calls. 

Roxy Belle reminds me of her. The cuddles they shared and how much they loved each other is forever in my memory.

I order my Starbuck's drink and think of the countless days I walked from the hospital room to get coffee there each morning. I'm reminded of how many times Katie wanted me to get a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit for her, and, how much in the early days of her illness, she begged her doctor for a frappuccino. Her order was always the same ... caramel mocha frappuccino.

The Facebook memories just kill me. I've gotten to where I can't check them every day like I used to. They remind me of the pain and hurt she suffered the last two years. I just can't.

And, today, I'm reminded of the list Katie made of all the people she wanted to invite to her 17th birthday party. We had planned on coming home if she were feeling well at the time. Her doctor had even said she could come home on the weekend, but to be prepared to return if she developed a fever or got sick. She was thrilled, but from that point on, never really felt well again.

She was preparing for a huge party. She had spent both her 15th and 16th birthdays in Houston; the 16th actually in the hospital. 
Here's the post with how we handled celebrating "Sweet 16" there - "It's my party. I can cry if I want to."

Instead, her daddy and I will stand at her grave.
We will put flowers in the vase on her headstone.
And, we most likely will cry.

Yes, we will still cry. We will still hurt. My heart will ache like it's been torn out of my chest.
And, these feelings come even though we KNOW she's in heaven. Even though we KNOW she is healed. Even though we KNOW she would never want to come back. Even though we KNOW she's with Jesus and He's got her!

I can't imagine how this would hurt more and how devastating it would be, if we didn't have this hope that we would see her again.

We always made a big deal out of birthdays. I believe birthdays are set in place to celebrate that person, celebrate their life and who they are. Birthday parties were greatly anticipated by my girl.





Today, we still celebrate Katie's life and who she was.

Happy Birthday, sweet, amazing girl!
We love you. See you soon!





Sunday, September 3, 2017

Escape

I've been wanting to try one of those escape rooms. You know what I'm talking about, right?
It's where you get locked in a room, and have a certain amount of time to figure your way out based on the clues you're given. It's a puzzle. I don't know how good I'd be at it, but based on my TV detective skills learned from Law and Order and CSI, I feel like I'd be amazing.

Unfortunately, I live in a real-life escape room right now. 

It's an escape room of heartache. This type of heartache you cannot escape And, I don't know if I'd even want to.

It's a room filled with reminders of the past, great times with my Katie girl, and horrible times we lived the last few years since her diagnosis.

There is literally no way out of this room. Sure, there are a million "clues" of how to get out, but leaving would be forgetting, blocking the hurt from my mind, and "escaping" only by denial. So, I sit in here, for now. The difference is the door's not locked. I can walk out any time I'm able. I just don't know when that will ever be.

I can't escape the heartache no matter how hard I try.

I try to stay busy. That's the key, they say. It really does help to keep your mind busy. But, there is always a moment where a person has to just sit down, just be still. That's when the heartache is more intense.

Believe it or not, I have leaned into this heartache. God, it hurts.
But, I don't want to miss a single thing God is going to say to me. And, I don't want to forget anything about our Katie.

We leaned in immediately after Katie's passing. We looked at photos after her passing, talked about her every day, shed many tears over the things she would miss out on that she wanted to do. Then, realize she's not missing out on anything, we are. We're missing out on her and the life she'd be living on earth.

We didn't wait to do this. We went through all her things, touching them, talking about what they meant to her, gave away some things to people who were important in her life, and watched video after video of our sweet girl. 

Some people can't deal with it. They box things up, only to have to go back years later to face it. 

This pain is inescapable. It's not going to go away with time. It will just get more bearable.

I wonder how different our lives would be if we leaned into every heartache, every pain, every trial. Why tiptoe around it? God knows it's happening to us. Why don't we face it head-on? 

That has become my posture in this and with all things. 
Just lean in.
Face it. 
Deal with it.
Ask God what He wants to show you through it.
Ask God how you can give Him the most glory through it.

We're in the midst of this process right now. 

We have planned our own little escape for this month. At this moment, it's almost 5:00 am, in Sydney, Australia, where we will be for eight days. Jet lag is in full effect, after our over 30 hours of travel to get here. We've been up since 3:30 am, missing Katie, talking about Katie, crying over her being gone. 

We will never be able to escape her memory and the impact she's made on our lives. For the rest of our own lives, she will be a huge part, even through she's not here.

We've come to Australia to spend time with Kylie. I do worry about her here and how she's doing. But, just like no one can help me in my heartache and grief, she has to do deal with her own. Of course, she has amazing support here, which soothes this mama's heart, but, I still worry. It's just what a mama does.

We will be traveling for the rest of the month ... "escaping," but leaning in, listening to God speak, waiting for His direction, and reconnecting as a family, and as a couple, looking toward the future and what that looks like for us.

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers, as we continue on this unexpected journey.