Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Worthy

The best part of this Christmas was the day before.
On Christmas Eve morning, we gave the kids a bath and dressed them in their fancy clothes much earlier than we normally would of because we had a date with my Grandma.
In October, my Grandma underwent emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot doctors found the day after her 81st birthday. Since then, she has been slowly recovering, moving around to different facilities and undergoing continual physical therapy and speech therapy.
We haven't gotten to see her since her surgery because the kids have been sick and timing hasn't worked out, but everything fell into place on Christmas Eve and everyone got to come and visit her.
I was a bit nervous.
Right after the surgery, Grandma was partially paralyzed, couldn't speak, couldn't recognize anyone, and was in bad shape. I knew she had improved since then, but wasn't sure what to expect.
I was also nervous about how the kids would respond.
My children are blessed to know all of my grandparents, as well as some of Bryan's and so I didn't know how they would react to the changes in Great Grandma Hunter.
Frilly dresses rustled as the girls raced to push the handicap door openers, and I was thankful that the  lobby smelled of Christmas instead of nursing home.
My mom had gone in before us to get Grandma, whom she'd found roaming the halls in her wheelchair, decked out in her familiar sage green hummingbird sweater.
I breathed a small sigh of relief because she looked better than I expected and was instantly so excited to see us. She reached out for each of us, trying to hold us all at once. She stroked the big red bows on the girls' dresses and they shed their coats and twirled for her. Judah (dressed as Santa) received the greatest doting, as he was instantly in her lap.
We wheeled Grandma over next to the Christmas tree and the girls led us in "Away in a Manger" and "Go Tell it on the Mountain." Grandma LOVED the singing and tried to sing along, even though the words she sang didn't match ours. I could tell she recognized the songs and wanted to sing along as best she could. We spent some more time doing puzzles with her, but it was a short visit, as she tires quickly.
Leaving was hard. She got mad when we wheeled her away from the girls, and it was clear that she did not want to go, but also clear how exhausted she was. I took Cayden and followed my mom pushing Grandma back to her room. Grandma was frustrated, we think because she wanted to say a proper goodbye. She's not the type to take a goodbye sitting down. Every goodbye I've ever had with her has included a hug at the door, standing. But today was different.
The only person at her level was Cayden.
My girl leaned in to give Grandma a hug goodbye and they just clung to each other. Grandma looked up at me with tears as if to say, "This is what I needed."
I lost it.
Sitting there embracing both my sweet 81-year-old grandmother and my sweet 5-year-old daughter, the tears came as a witness to this special moment. It was a long hug. Count right now to 30 seconds. That's an eternity for a hug...and I had worried how my kids would react.
After Cayden, I hugged Grandma myself and my mom reassured her that she would be back the next day to take Grandma to my aunt's house for Christmas.
We could hear her chanting the word she repeats over and over again, fading as we walked away from her room.
"Worthy, worthy, worthy..."
This is the word she greeted us with, repeated the whole time we were there, and even sang at times. She can say about 5 words now, but overwhelmingly, she says "worthy" over and over. Her inflection will change to match what she's trying to communicate, even baby talking "worthy, worthy," to Judah.
When we got to the car, Cayden asked, "Why does Grandma always say 'worthy?'"
I wondered the same thing. Why that word?
It didn't take me long to think of an answer that made sense to me.
"I think it's because she saw Jesus."
"Huh?"
"I think when she was having surgery on her brain, she saw Jesus, maybe in a dream, and now all she can say is 'worthy' because Jesus is so beautiful and the only one worthy of our praise."
For a woman who has lived her life to tell others about Christ's love and sacrifice, I can't imagine it is coincidence that the one word God has enabled her to say with gusto is "worthy."
Thank you, Grandma, for reminding me, yet again, of our Father's love for us, and for giving me an opportunity to communicate that love and awe to my daughter. You are still touching our lives and making this world a better place.

"Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
His greatness no one can fathom"
Psalm 145:3

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I told you so

Is there anything more selfish than saying, “I told you so?”

Usually, this phrase follows the failure of someone else.

And in saying, “I told you so,” instead of lifting that person out of their failure (like Jesus would), I am choosing to wallow in their failure and remind them how much wiser I am.

Oftentimes as a mom, I find myself using some form of this phrase under the guise of creating a teachable moment for my children.

“I told you not to touch that burner!”

“That’s what happens when you pick your nose too much!”

“I knew you would trip with your shoes on the wrong feet!”

For some reason, in those moments when I’m frustrated (because I DID warn them about these things, and I AM smarter than them), my gut reaction is to scold them and remind them how smart I am. I like to think that the root of my scolding is because I so desperately want them to stay safe without burned hands and bloody noses, but is “I told you so” the best I can do as a mom?

No.

The first words out of my mouth don’t need to be a reminder of what I told them.

The first words out of my mouth need to be addressing the pain caused by their failure or bad decision.

The first words out of my mouth need to give life.

That means stuffing down the first (selfish) thoughts that come to my head and asking, “Are you okay? How can I help?”

Maybe later, after the knees have their bandaids, we can discuss the benefits of wearing shoes on the right feet, but the attitude of “I told you so” just teaches my children to react with selfishness instead of with compassion.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rain

Yesterday, my girls were playing in the pool with the neighbors in the front yard. When I woke up this morning to rain, I thought, yep...that makes sense.
It rained last June 2, as well.
It didn't just rain, it poured.
And it made sense on a day that didn't make much sense.
Last June 2, Bryan and I calmly drove the 8 minutes to the hospital, pressed the 4 on the elevator and were quietly escorted to a room without an incubator where moms come to deliver babies that never give first cries. Down the hall from the rooms where my girls entered this world, I took the pills to induce my labor to deliver our 14-week-old son, whose heart was no longer beating. All day, I stared out the window, looking down on a little garden being drenched by a surprise June rain storm.
At 6:06pm, Hunter Hope finally arrived, and life will never be the same.
Hunter's story is posted earlier in this blog, but today I want to just be reminded that he was and will always be a precious part of our family.
Also, I want to share that God has blessed us with another pregnancy.
Due in 23 days, this June baby is much prayed over, much loved and much anticipated.
We are waiting to find out gender, so this will be a very new experience for us.
Please be praying for peace in my heart over the next month as we rest in the knowledge that Christ's love and sacrifice serves as the anchor for our soul, despite our circumstances.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A family that fails together...

I'd had it with Swiffers.
The third time using my brand new Swiffer, it stopped spraying (the whole point) and so I stopped mopping...until Piper spilled cranberry juice everywhere and it had to be done.
I refused to buy ANOTHER stupid Swifter.
I also refused to buy a real mop (sorry Pinesol lady).

 So I deconstructed my swifter to figure out what was wrong.
Nothing was wrong.

 My daughter Cayden watched me unscrew the plastic cover, inspect the wiring on the motor (I was pretending I knew what I was doing), check for clogs in the tubes, etc. When I pulled off the battery pack, Duracells rolled across my sticky floor.
"Maybe you need new batteries?" She optimistically suggested, 4 years of experience rattling in her tilted head.
I laughed a bit at her innocent solution to everything.
When the internet isn't working, she says we need to change the batteries.
"No, it's pretty new, I don't think it's the batteries..."

There was nothing wrong with the stupid Swiffer Sweeper.
The only thing I hate more than being wrong is when someone else is right.
The only thing I hate more than that is sticky floors.
Long story short, it was the batteries.

We whooped and hollered when the sprayers blasted full power with those new batteries.
I saw the pride in my daughter's face, but also noticed hints of humility as she applauded my efforts, saying, "I saw you had already tried everything else, so I thought it might be the batteries."

Then, giggling, she said, "Usually you know more, but this time, I was smarter, Mommy!"


Sometimes I am wrong. And I'm glad that my daughter saw me accept my failure today, because maybe she will remember that failure is ok in this family.
Family means not ridiculing failures.
Family means stepping in to help when someone has failed.
Family means working together to put the broken pieces back together.

I am thankful for my family.
And for new batteries.

Friday, October 2, 2015

I miss that little person...


Today, I overheard this conversation upstairs between Cayden and her little friend.

“The baby is dead! And it’s all your fault! We need to go to the real doctor STAT!”

The two girls were playing doctor and unfortunately, Cayden’s friend had taken too long to retrieve the life-saving pretend syringe.

Death is an experienced reality in my 4-year-old’s life.

Cayden Elizabeth Ann was named after my good friend and mentor, Beth, who died two months before Cayden was born. Beth’s parents have become like grandparents to my girls, and we often talk about how Beth is in heaven now.

Death came up again when my mom’s dog died.
Then it was the flowers.
Spiders die when she squishes them.
Simba’s dad died.
And baby brother died before she ever got to meet him.

Sometimes when I am chatting with some stranger at Les Schwab about how old my kids are and such, Cayden will matter-of-factly pipe in, “You had another baby too, but he died.” Like I forgot. Like this woman next to me needs to know that information to complete my story.

The thing is, that woman does need to know.
Because the story of my children is incomplete without a mention of Hunter.
But it’s an awkward thing to say.

It catches people off guard.
It catches me off guard.
And it makes me vulnerable.

In an instant, I have to decide how I want to present this sad reality of my life.
I want to be able to share my darkness along with my Light.

I lost a child.
But I have gained so much in that loss.
I have gained strength from a God who also lost His child.
I have learned a whole new level of compassion.
I have experienced how precious life is.

I have held a little tiny human in the palm of my hand.
He wasn’t breathing, he wasn’t alive, but he was a person.

And I miss that little person.

I remember when my friend Beth died, her mom told me that she couldn’t make it through the songs at church (especially the hymns) without crying.

I get that now.

I can’t even make it dry-eyed down the road with K-LOVE playing because there’s always a song with the perfect lyrics for my soul.

The best part is when I’m quietly trying to keep it together up front, and the chorus comes around and my sweet 4-year-old starts belting out, “I WILL CAST MY CARES ON YOU!”

Yes.

And the words from Finding Favour pour through my soul.

“This war's not what I would've chosen
But You see the future no one knows yet

“And there's still good when I can't
See the working of Your hands
You're holding it all

“I will cast my cares on You
You're the anchor of my hope
The only one who's in control
I will cast my cares on You
I'll trade the troubles of this world
For Your peace inside my soul.”

I was supposed to be 8 months pregnant right now.
I was supposed to be able to say, “I’m having a baby next month!”
But sometimes bad things happen.

Sometimes cancer takes our children.
Sometimes bullets take our children.
And sometimes we don’t know what took our children.

What we don’t want is for the world to forget our children.
Because we never will.

It’s ok to ask me about my son.
He was a gift to be shared.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The song

Yesterday, I looked at my calendar to find an appointment for my "big ultrasound" at 20 weeks. It made me wonder how different today could have been, in many scenarios. If things were different, I could have been so excited to announce we were having a boy. Instead, today I am rejoicing that my baby boy is seeing perfection in Heaven, and continuing to bless people with his story down here on earth.
One of the most healing things I encountered in this process was the church service the week after we lost Hunter. Bryan defined "hope" for us as a steadfast conviction that is anchored in Jesus and sealed with a promise. Then, I read my June 2 blog post. Then, with the whole room in tears, the worship team had to get up there, pull themselves together, and sing some amazing songs about hope. It was so beautiful.
The following week, I asked the worship team to record one of the songs: Everlasting God (We Set Our Hope). This is not an original song, but is an original video.
My talented brother, Steven, has a recording studio (Vibe Control Studios) in town, so he helped us make this beautiful sound track.
A big "thank you" to everyone who made this possible.
Please watch the video here: https://vimeo.com/132788186

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hunter Hope

One of my favorite things to do as a child was snooping through the haphazard boxes of mementos and photo albums in my mother’s wooden hope chest upstairs in their bedroom. I loved finding old black and whites of grandpas when they had hair and sports cars, a golden lock from my first haircut, and once, a box of my brother’s baby teeth.

Somewhere in that mess of memories, I distinctly remember a brown Statesman Journal article with a 4 column photo of my dad playing baseball in high school. The headline proudly yelled, “HUNTER DOES HIS JOB.”
I don’t even know if I ever read the article, or figured out what “job” my father, Scott Hunter, had done, but for some reason, that headline and that photo have always stuck with me.

I think it’s because that headline is so much my dad.
He does his work, no complaints, no dilly-dallying, he just does it.
I don’t think anyone would ever describe him as lazy.
Tired, maybe. But not lazy.

I can just imagine his high school baseball coach yelling out, “C’mon Hunter, do your job!”
And he did it.

I always wanted a son named Hunter.
He would play baseball, like his daddy.
Some coach would yell out, “C’mon Hunter, do your job!” and I would smile and think about my daddy.

I had plans for Hunter.

Three weeks ago, I held my son, Hunter, for the first time.
And I didn’t even know it.
There’s a reason why you are told the gender of your baby at the 20-week ultrasound.
I learned this because if your baby is only 14 weeks, 3 days old, you can’t really tell.

When our breathless baby was born 174 days too early, I thought at first, “It’s a boy,” but then the nurses guessed otherwise and we settled on the idea that the baby was a girl. When we told Cayden that she had another baby sister, she looked confused and said, “Huh? I thought it was a brother.”

The genetic tests done in the weeks after the baby’s birth told us his chromosomes were XY – male.

This rocked me.

My heart had settled on my daughter Hope.
I had grieved my daughter Hope.
And now, I had to grieve a son too.

We named him Hunter.
Hunter Hope Bernard.

I remember watching Hunter on the ultrasound at 10 weeks, somersaulting around and making it hard to catch a profile.


I’d never seen a 10-week ultrasound before (usually coming in at 8 weeks) and I was amazed at his arms and legs flailing around. The curve of his belly when he faced down, the outline of his ear. 



One month later, they couldn’t find his heartbeat.
I saw him on an ultrasound that day too, so much more grown up, but not somersaulting this time.
The next day, I got to hold my son.
If anyone knows about losing a son, it is my Heavenly Father.

God didn’t take away my son, He let me carry my son for a few short months.

He let me love the thought of my son growing inside of me, and He let hold my baby.

I never got to feel Hunter’s sleepy weight under my chin or see him wiggle his precious toes, but I did get to love him, and he made me a better mama.
He reminded me how miraculous bringing life into this world is, and how quickly good news can change to heartbreaking news. He showed me that my healthy children are to be snuggled and kissed every day because we never know how much time we have.
Hunter taught me many things before I even knew he was my son. To think of the things he would have taught me, had he lived, breaks my heart, but I have hope, and I am thankful.
I had always wanted a son named Hunter, and God gave me one for 14 weeks and 3 days.