"Little Joys"

Do you hold a symbol, photo, song, or image close to your heart that reminds you of your precious. Heavenly baby? Is there a certain smell, sound, or flower that when you come into contact with it, you feel a sense of closeness to them? 

I do. 

In fact, I have many, including ladybugs, butterflies, lilies, hearts, feathers, rainbows, eagles, scriptures, and many songs. And though I know Deuteronomy 18:10b-12a clearly warns us against contacting the dead (...Let no one be found among you who interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord...), it is most definitely okay to remember them, feel a closeness in our hearts, and honor their lives. All these things are merely reminders and “little joys” in my new life after loss. 

Our loved ones that have passed before us, now live in our hearts. And It is through their priceless memories that they can still “live” with us each day.

When we are broken with grief, God encourages us to look to Him for answers. We are asked to reach out and talk to Him ...Throughout the last 9 years of this grief journey, I have done just that. I have asked, wept, and listened. Followed by asking, weeping, and listening. 

Talking with God has been my safety net, though I will admit, there was a time in this journey where I struggled with talking to Him and being open. And even though Psalm 139:4 says, He already knows our thoughts before we even speak them, I felt ashamed and wrong for the feelings and questions I had. 

Friends, after gallons of tears and many hours of counseling, I finally let go of  “hiding” my disappointments, burdens, and brokenness from God, as I was reassured countless times of His love for me, no matter what I was going through. And that nothing could separate me from His love... not even death. Romans 8:31-39

How freeing it is to finally be real and honest with the One who has the ability and love to heal our brokenness. How freeing it is to know, I am loved, in spite of my struggles. How freeing it is to know, I have someone on my side, no matter what I feel like inside. 

As the years have passed and as I have become more and more transparent with God, I have come to believe all those “little joys” I find, see, and hear are actually gifts I receive from Him, as He is reminding me, He has not forgotten my pain. He notices me and knows my heart so very well. He knows how often I think of my precious babies, my grandfathers, and my beloved chihuahua, each and everyone whom I miss so incredibly much. He knows the amount of joy I feel when I see something that is a positive reminder of their lives. He understands what kind of encouragement I need. He is the giver of Hope and Peace, and I believe with all my heart, these “little joys” are always from Him... simply because He loves me.

Last Tuesday, March 27th was a tough day for my heart. It is a day that leaves my heart heavy and has for the last 9 years. It is the day, we lost our first precious baby, Leilani Mae. On that day, she was surgically removed from my womb and her ashes were then spread in a place I was unaware of for the following 6 years. The trauma, guilt, and closure has been something that has required a lot of time to process for me. Her death has been the hardest for me to accept and process, for reasons I still cannot explain. 

Each year, I try to do something to honor her. Sometimes, I paint, release a balloon, buy flowers, plant flowers, or just spend time remembering her. This year, I went for a walk with my 5 year old son, Elijah, to soak in the sun and listen to praise music. Though that wasn’t really a way to honor her, it is what my heart needed. 

Friends, about a half mile into our walk, lying in a pile of leftover mud and salt from winter was a white cross with gold sequins. The pureness of the white, and the light reflecting from the sequins is what caught my attention. 

I quickly picked up the cross, snapped a photo and put it in a safe place in my stroller. I felt a rush though my body and I grinned from ear to ear, as my heart was blessed in such a touching way. My dear, sweet Leilani is alive and well! Though I already knew that, this cross reminded me again. She is with Jesus. She is whole, pure, and full of light. And her memory can be good. Most of all, I know in my heart, Jesus has not forgotten my love for her, as he blessed with me a “huge joy” on what has been such a difficult anniversary date. 

I know our friends and family don’t always validate the lives of our babies that are no longer here. I know they don’t always remember dates, and events, or our hurts and brokenness... Though that pain is intense, it is okay because God does. He remembers everything. He will never forget. And, He will not judge us for our feelings, questions, or tears. Reach out to Him.

I encourage you today to think about something that brings a closeness and positive reminder to you of your baby. Thank God for that, and know, it is a gift from Him because He loves you and He remembers you, always.

Have a blessed week and look for the light, even if it is only a crack. xo xo xo 

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Beetle Friend

Today the SUN is finally shinning here in Wahoo, NE and I got to take my rainbow and all of his stuffies for a much needed walk! Oh, what a blessing to feel the sun and smell the smells of Spring. Thank you God for today and this joyful blessing. I will hold it dear to my heart. 

Elijah and I have been walking together since he was a baby. Last summer, while on one of our daily walks, his curious, big, brown eyes spotted a very large, black beetle. His excitement was so intense as he begged me to stop the stroller and pick it up for him, so he could see his new “friend.” 

While quivering and biting my tongue, I put on my big girl pants and picked the huge, squirmy guy up. Elijah was elated! After a few minutes of him trying to keep the beetle from crawling up his sleeve, he decided it was time to put him back in his home. (A pile of leaves on the the side of the curb.)

EVERY walk since that day, at the exact same spot, after turning the corner onto the next street, Elijah asks in the most precious, angelic voice I have yet to hear, “Mommy, should we look for our beetle friend today?” And each and every time my heart melts, as I say, “I think we should!” 

Each time, our beetle friend is no where to be found. 

Sometimes Elijah asks me to stop and look under the leaves, grass, sticks, or whatever may be there. He has even asked me to dig through the snow. And each time, after noticing Elijah’s smile begin to fade, I reassure him, it is okay and maybe we will find him next time. 

Though Elijah is saddened when he does not find his friend, he is reassured and comforted by my simple and gentle response. He is comforted by my willingness to look for his beetle friend, each time he asks. He is comforted because I notice his feelings and concerns. 

Friends, though it may not always feel like it, especially when our worlds are shattered with grief, our Heavenly Father sees and hears us each and every time we ask him, “Why?” He sees and hears us each and every time the tears fall uncontrollably. He sees and hears us when we ask if, He is even there. 

He is there and there is a purpose for everything, even when we do not see it or understand. 

The Bible promises that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. James 4:8 Keep asking Him. Keep pouring out your heart to Him. Keep reaching towards the light. He sees you. He understands your pain. He loves you. He has a plan. 

Today I encourage you to notice and listen to someone you know who is hurting, or has a concern. Even if you have heard their questions or story countless times, and though you may not have an answer, your presence and acknowledgment will comfort them in ways we may never imagine. Even a simple smile and hug can do wonders. 

You may be the only one who notices. 

You may be the only one who gives them that push to get out of bed. 

You may be the one they have begged God to send, because their hope is nearly gone and they don’t know how much more they can take. 

God can use each and every one of us to bring comfort and encouragement to others, even when we ourselves our broken. It is through our pain, that He brings healing and beauty from ashes. All we need to be is willing. 

If the sun is shining near you today, make time to get outside and soak in God’s beauty. It will be so worth it...Maybe you will even find our long lost beetle friend. Love you, friends!

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Spring is Coming

I don’t know about you, but this winter has been brutal for my soul, and I am more than ready for it to be on its way. I am a sunshine and warm weather girl. I like to be outdoors as much as possible, connecting with nature. 

Tending to my garden and flowers has been something that has brought me so much joy, peace, and comfort throughout these last nine years of grief. I also love walking while listening to music and letting the sunshine soak into my skin. 

When I cannot do those outdoor activities for an extended period of time, I begin to feel gloomy. Friends, I am going to be honest. I am struggling with gloominess today and have been for a few weeks. 

I need spring to get here. 

There is something about watching new life sprout that brings me so much hope, as I am reminded, this sorrow on this Earth is only temporary. There is new life ahead, waiting for us in Heaven, and when we finally get there, there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All those things are gone forever, as promised in Revelation 21:4 That is powerful! 

One of my most favorite sections of my book is “Blue Violet.” Reading through this section this morning in my quiet time as brought me comfort and encouragement. 

I would love to share it with you, in hopes that you too would find comfort. It reads:

"Thank you for the blue violet flowers planted in the garden of my childhood home. 

As the season changed from winter to spring, they were one of the first plants to transform color. Their color was electrifying and intense. It reminded me, only You can bring new life to something that is dead. It is You who changes the seasons and tells the flowers when to     bloom. 

My husband and I plant bulbs annually on October 15th. 

{National Pregnancy and infant Loss Remembrance Day} On that day we remember no only our sweet, babies that are no longer here, but all the precious little ones that have left too soon. 

We plant those bulbs, so our eyes can see new life appear in the spring. While we mourn and cry on that day, our hearts sing with joy in the Spring as we are reminded     there is indeed new life! 

Did you create Springtime so hurting people could find new hope?"

In 2008, Steven Curtis Chapman’s daughter, Maria Sue was killed in an very tragic accident. As a result, he wrote a very raw album titled, “Beauty Will Rise,” and his wife, Mary Beth wrote a book titled, “Choosing to SEE.” Both have been profound influences in my journey through grief. 

Though the album and book is very raw, expressing the reality of sorrow, they are both so encouraging and comforting. Here is just one of the songs from the album that I find fitting for today. 

After you listen to this song, go look for three signs of spring. Even if it is the tiniest sign ever, find it and hold onto it. Spring is coming. 

Today I found:

Birds chirping, though I cannot see them yet.

Shiny rocks in rain Puddles, though the sky is dark and gray.

Green blades of grass, in the midst of all the brown ugliness.

The beauty and hope is there, we just have to look for it and hold onto it, once we find it.  Have a blessed weekend friends! 

 

 

 

Grieving at Christmas 

This is a hard Christmas for me. Really hard. Though my book has newly been released and I couldn’t be more grateful for the healing that is taking place in broken hearts because of it, my heart hurts... real bad.

This year I lost three souls whom I loved so dearly and another whom I was just getting to know, but already had love for. This year both of my grandfathers went home to be with the Lord, as well as my beloved chihuahua Stuart Wilson, after losing his 7 year battle with a terminal illness. 

Both of my grandfathers will forever leave a legacy. Howard Shoemaker was an extraordinary, nationally recognized cartoon artist and Joseph Campagna was a 17th Infantry Paratrooper and World War ll veteran. Just the history those two incredible men leave behind is so important and fascinating. My life has been shaped and impacted in countless ways because of those whom I am forever blessed to call my grandfathers. 

This is the first year I did not send them a Christmas card signed with XO XO XO. This is the first year I did not make them a home made gift. This is the first year I will not give them a hug and kiss. This is the first year I will not see their smiles. This is the first year I will not tell them I love them.  

On November 7th, I lost my very best friend, Stuart. Stuart was my first dog whom I had begged for since I was a little girl. It was not until just before my 21st birthday that my dreams finally came true and I was blessed with the most loyal, loving, hilarious, stubborn friend I could have ever dreamed of. The last 13 years of my life have been so much better because of my Stuart. His unconditional love and comfort through the loss of our four precious babies, will forever be engraved in my heart. I cannot explain how much I miss him. Oh, how my heart aches. 

This is the first year his stocking will be empty. This is the first year he will not wear his Santa outfit. This is the first year I will not take dozens of photos of him diving into his gifts. This is the first year, we will be traveling with one less. This is the first year I will not kiss him over and over again, while dancing and singing to Christmas carols. 

Several days after Stuart passed away, we got another puppy. Though we knew it would not take away our pain, we believed a new puppy would bring joy in the midst of our grief. Two days after bringing home our new pup, Fuller, he became suddenly ill. After taking him to the vet, I was told, “Do not expect him to live.” 

Fuller passed away three days later. Our “joy” in the midst of our grief had been taken and my family and I were left with nothing but tears and sadness.

After the loss of Fuller (our 4th loss in one year), all those familiar heartbreaking feelings associated with the loss of our children came back... I know from experiencing loss in the past, the first year is always the most difficult. And though it would be easier to just push my emotions down and hurry to get through this first year without them, I know healing will not happen if I do not allow myself to feel. 

If there is one thing I have learned from the loss of our four babies, it is that, it is so important to “go through” the grief. It is necessary in order to begin to heal. Going through grief means allowing yourself to “feel” when and how you feel. Grief is a complicated journey. There is no right or wrong way. There is no clear beginning, middle, or end. There will be tears. There will be laughter. 

Last spring I attended a grief class at a local church, where we watched videos, journaled, and shared our stories. One of the journals we were asked to write was a letter to a friend to help them prepare for grief. 

While going through so much fresh grief right now, I decided to find that journal and reread it. Immediately, I was reminded, everything I am feeling this Christmas is normal. Everything I am feeling is okay. Everything I am feeling is will eventually get easier.

I want to share this letter with you as we embark on this journey of grief together.  

My dear friend,

As I begin this letter to try and help you prepare or learn what to expect from coming grief, me heart begins to quickly fill with sorrow. I have deep empathy for you knowing the road ahead is a long, long road with many bumps, potholes, and sometimes dead ends. 

There is no way to physically, mentally, emotionally, or even spiritually prepare for what is to come. Grief is different for everyone and comes like a thief at different times, with no warning. It is painful, lonely, dark, and can seem unending. It will be difficult for you to express your emotions, because you will have so many. 

You may also begin to see others differently than you once did before, becoming more sensitive to their comments and advise, or lack there of. No one will truly know and understand your deep pain and questions, except Jesus. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. James 4:8

Only Jesus can give you the perfect, love, comfort, and understanding you will need to keep going. It is His strength alone that will pick you up. Eventually after time passes, you will see light again. Though it may never be as bright as it once was before, you will see it. Reach for the light. Hold onto it and don’t let go. That light will help you begin to live your new kind of life. Your life without the one(s) you loved so dearly. 

Jesus knows your pain. Jesus understands your pain. Jesus sees your pain. It is okay to be honest with Him. It is okay to feel mad, sad, confused, and or hopeless around Him. He will meet you where you are. 

Finally, it is okay to accept your new life. It is okay to live again. Living and experiencing joy does not mean you are “over” it, or forgot, or do not still love them. Instead it means you have learned to continue living and being all God designed you to be, even though they now live in your heart. 

I cannot say the pain will ever fully go away, or memories and flashbacks will not happen. I cannot say you won’t randomly cry in a public place, or long for them. I cannot say the questions will go away... I can say, you will one day breathe again without so much deep, dark pain, I can say you will find new joys. Hold onto your new joys and embrace them, no matter how small they may be. They are from God and He loves you so very much.

His desire is not for us to be broken, depressed and anguished. Though we nay never understand why He allows us to go through agony and pain, know He will meet us, guide us, and help us through. His plans are so much greater and bigger than ours. We cannot see His big picture, but we can trust Him to get us through. Look for the beauty in the ugly. I promise it is there. 

Your friend in Christ,

Paige Anderson

Though Christmas does doesn’t feel quite right this year, I have decided to be okay with that. While trying so hard to feel all the feels and keep all the traditions for my children and husband... I cannot help but feel sad amongst it all. My heart feels less full this year, and that is okay. My heart is less full right now, but I know I will be okay and I know God will fill my emptiness in His perfect time. 

My husband said it best last night while I was crying, as thoughts of my beloved Stuart consumed my mind. I explained to him that I didn’t know how to handle Christmas this year. His response was so simple, yet so comforting. He said, “It is okay to be sad and happy this Christmas.” He is right. So this Christmas, as I prepare to celebrate for the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, I can embrace it, knowing I am happy and I am sad.... And that will never change how much my family and Jesus loves me. 

Merry Christmas friends. My prayer for you this season, is that you too may allow yourself to feel and to keep looking for the light, even if you can only find a small speck right now. Hold onto that light and hold onto Jesus. It will get better. It will.

Heavenly Birthdays

Last week was a tough week for my momma heart. Not only did we have one Heavenly birthday, but two. On October 29th, we celebrated Leilani’s 8th Heavenly birthday, and on October 30th, we celebrated Leeland’s 7th. I say we celebrated, but honestly, there was no celebration over here. The true celebration was in Heaven. On this side, we remembered. 

October 29th is a date that will forever be engraved in my heart. No matter how much time goes by, that date stings my heart so, so much. October 29, 2009 was our first baby, Leilani Mae’s due date... The date all expectant parents anticipate with such joy and excitement. 

I remember, as soon as we found out we were pregnant, we started collecting things here and there for our little bundle of joy. From stuffed duckies, to Benjamin Bunny books, our nursery began to grow. I will always remember, after calling our families to tell them the news, my husband left, shortly returning with a single red rose and a soft, cuddly, green turtle. He said it was “babies first toy.” 

It was those little things that we now cherish. Each one, a priceless memory of our sweet Leilani Mae. Today all of her items are stored away in a sweet, Humpty Dumpty box, except for one very special toy... her little turtle. When my son was born, we placed it in his crib. We left it out as a way to remember her and as a reminder that she will always be a part of our lives. Our son is now 5 years old and that turtle is one of his very favorite stuffies. 

October 30, 2010 was our third baby, Leeland Way’s due date. Honestly, after losing our first two babies, when I found out I was pregnant the third time, I was more terrified than I was excited. I do not have any tangible items to remember Leeland by. I did not buy anything while I was pregnant with him, for fear that if he died, I would have to add them to the “heart-wrenching” Humpty Dumpty box of my children’s belongings. Though I did not buy him anything while I was pregnant, my heart hurt the same when he passed away, and my heart hurts the same today without him. 

It is natural for a mother to want her children. It is natural to want to see them and hold them and kiss them. It is natural to cry when we miss them. Though it has been years since they have passed, my heart still aches on their Heavenly birthdays. My heart still longs to be able to wrap them gifts and decorate the house exactly how they want it, in their very favorite theme. 

It is hard for me to celebrate their birthday’s here on earth without them. But it is even harder for me to go through that day not doing something to remember them by. As the years have came and gone, I have finally realized and accepted, there is no wrong way to get through those days. Some years, we release balloons, and some years we light candles. Each year comes with its own set of emotions. 

This year my husband bought a beautiful yellow flowering plant, one big enough for both babies, since their birthdays are one day apart. We also lit one pink candle and one blue candle. Each candle was lit for 24 hours. Throughout each day my mind was filled with thoughts of them, some joyful, some sorrowful. And when I lied my head down to rest at the end of the day I was thankful. Thankful I made it through another tough “anniversary” date. Thankful I was able to smile when I thought of them. And thankful for the hope and promise I have in Jesus Christ. That one very glorious day ahead, we will be reunited, where we will spend the rest of our birthdays together for all of eternity! 

It is my hope and prayer that you too are able to smile when you think of your precious babies. I pray you are able to find something to be thankful for, no matter how small it may be as you remember them. I pray you will find comfort and peace as you too go though Heavenly birthdays, and that when you go through them, you are kind and gentle to yourself, no matter how you choose to remember them.

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We Remember Them... even when it hurts

Today is October 15th: National Pregnancy and Infant loss Awareness Day. We are invited to light a candle at 7pm in all time zones, all over the world. By keeping our candles lit for one hour, we will be participating in a worldwide “Wave of Light” in observation of this special day.

Can you imagine what that would look like from Heaven? Though the Bible does not make it clear if our loved ones can see us or not, my mind and heart can’t help but imagine... What would all those flames look like from heaven? Would they look like all the stars in space? Would they sparkle? Would they glow? Would my babies know right where my candles were shining from?

We light candles today to remember them and all the babies gone too soon. We remember their lives and the impact they will forever leave in our hearts and to those around us. We remember them today and always. 

Each year my family and I attend The Remembrance of Life Service hosted by Methodist Hospital in Omaha, NE. Each year we tearfully recite this poem:

“In the rising of the sun and in its going down,

we remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

we remember them.

In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,

we remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,

we remember them.

In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

we remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,

we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength, 

we remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, 

we remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share,

we remember them.

So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now 

a part of us, as we remember them.”

- Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer

It is hard to remember. It stings my heart so bad today, as I am reminded I am physically without my four precious babies. Sometimes, I can’t help but hate that this is how I “live” with them... by honoring them at balloon releases, walks, 5k’s, and lighting candles. Sometimes I can’t help but cry out to the Lord because, I would give anything to be able to just see their precious faces and hold them and kiss them, even if only for one minute. Sometimes, I can’t help but think, “it’s not fair.” Sometimes, it hurts so bad, I can do nothing else but sit and cry. 

As tears stream down my face one by one, I am reminded, while I do not understand why I am not able to have our babies here, I do know two things for sure: 

1.} They are in the most glorious place imaginable, safe and sound in Jesus’ arms. (Matthew 18:3,10 NLT, Luke 18:15-16 NLT) 

2.} This life is temporary and one day I will be with them again, only this time for all eternity. (2 Corinthians 4:18,51 NLT, John 3:16 NLT) 

So while it hurts real bad for now, I can hold onto the hope and promise that I have in Jesus, as I am reassured what awaits in heaven:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. (Revelation 21:4 NLT)

As I light my candles tonight, I choose to smile. I choose to smile because of the hope I carry in my heart. I choose to smile because I love my babies so incredibly much, and love conquers all... even if it stings. (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT)

Today, I invite you to light a candle in honor of your baby(ies) and all the other babies no longer here with us on this earth. I invite you to remember them, even if it hurts. 

 

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97 Butterflies

Fall has always been my favorite season... until Leilani Mae. For as long as I can remember, my heart was full with the simple joys of Fall, as I watched the trees begin changing colors, displaying different shades and hues of red, orange, and yellow. The slight chill in the air made it perfect sweatshirt and snuggling weather. Family trips to the Pumpkin Patch, football games, bonfires, and chili filled our agendas. 

Fall is different now. 

Instead of feelings of joy as the season begins to change, my heart can’t help but ache, as I am reminded of our first precious baby, Leilani Mae. Her due date was October 29th, 2009. Smack dab in the middle of Fall. Would she have been a Halloween baby, sharing her grandfather’s birthday? Would it have snowed that day? ... because sometimes in Nebraska it snows in October... a lot. 

What were once simple joys have now become reminders... reminders that she is not here.

It was not until several years after our dear Leilani Mae passed away, that I began to notice butterflies. Though I would see a few here and there throughout the summer, it wasn’t until the Fall that I really began noticing them beginning to emerge from their cocoons, delicately making their new home throughout my flower garden.

It wasn’t until then that I realized the amazing miracle of a butterflies' life. Though they must leave their life as a caterpillar, they emerge into something so incredibly beautiful and breathtaking, as they spread their new wings for the very first time. What may have appeared to be lifeless in it’s cocoon, is actually in the process of coming more alive than it ever was before. 

Though my heart is extra sensitive this time of year, I have been able to feel a “new” joy, as I have made to choice to look for the butterflies, and appreciate each and every one. Each butterfly is a reminder to me that our babies are indeed alive and well, and are flourishing in the arms of Jesus. Each butterfly is a reminder that though we are apart for now, I do not have to forget them. Each butterfly is a reminder that they will always be in my heart. 

While feeling somewhat down several weeks ago, I decided to go for a walk and soak in the beauty of God’s nature. While heading down my driveway I noticed more butterflies than usual. Each one, gracefully covering every flower in my garden. It was so incredibly beautiful to see so many.

While walking, I decided to count how many butterflies I saw along my path of about 2 miles. I began to see butterflies everywhere. They were in front of me, above me, below me, and to the sides of me. I saw yellow, white, and various shades of orange.  With each butterfly I counted, my heart was filled with more joy and less pain. I felt so close to my babies. Though realistically I knew they were not “really” there, the beauty and gentleness of each butterfly allowed me to feel a sense of their presence. 

I continued walking, counting, and smiling until I reached the end of my path. Stepping onto my driveway I counted the 97th butterfly! 

What a simple blessing and a joy in the midst of such sorrow. 

Thank you God for butterflies. Thank you for giving me eyes to see their beauty.

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