Sep 18

Mommy

an old but favorite picture

My mom and I are best friends. We talk numerous times a day, and there’s not much that happens in our lives that we don’t instantly share with each other. She’s my rock when life gets hard and my biggest cheerleader. I can’t imagine walking through life without her. Growing up my friends were magnets to my mom, and sometimes I just didn’t understand why they liked her so much! sorry mom! When I think about Mary Anna, I start to get a glimpse of how much my mommy loves me. Being a mom has taught me to be thankful for my mom in a whole new way. I have always known that she’s the best, but lately it has been confirmed.

Through my walk with Mary Anna, she never doubted my girl. She cried, laughed, was angry, prayed and fought with me every step of the way. I’ll never forget the joy in her eyes when she met Mary Anna. She was so proud of her, and it melted my heart. Then when our sweet girl went to heaven, she missed her just as much as I did. She still does. That’s why my Mary Anna is named after her. When Dan and I were talking about what to name her, we instantly considered naming her after my mom, Marianne.

The day we confirmed her name we were driving to our home town, and I told Dan that I was really ready to get the show on the road in the name department. He said, “Oh I thought we had settled on Mary Anna.” I was thrilled, but of course, wanted the decision to be equally his. I said why do you want her to be named after mom, and he said, “Because I want her to be exactly like your mom, I want her to love like she does, be selfless, and be full of grace… if there’s one person besides you Karebear that I would want our baby girl to be like, it is your mom.” So it was set, and as soon as we walked into the door, we told my parents about the decision about her name. In true fashion, my mom said, “I’m not worthy for someone to be named after me.”, and it confirmed the reasoning behind her namesake. Humble MA.

Mom,
I love you mommy so very much and Mary Anna had the most beautiful name thanks to you. She was truly a fighter just like you are. As I walk through this dark hour, I’m so thankful to have you by my side. You encourage me to be a better person, and I pray that I can be half the mom that you are. You’ve taught me sacrifice and the fact that love knows no boundaries. There’s no way to put into words what you mean to me. Thank you for loving my baby girl and for loving me. 
Karebear
hey cute parents
Sep 15

Bid my anxious fears

I think often how this girl ^ made me a mommy. (One of my sweet friends made this picture for me shortly after Mary Anna passed away.) I got such a sweet taste of how motherhood felt like a completion of everything that I have ever wanted to be when I had Mary Anna, and then like the flip of a switch, she was gone. You see, there has never been a deep desire in my heart to have a career or a fancy office, but my desire has always been to be a mom. That desire at times has brought some bitterness in my heart when I look around and think, “o.k. God, this is my desire, and I was planning to devote my life to my babies, yet you took her, and so many people don’t appreciate their children yet you didn’t take their babies… what’s the deal big man?”

This desire has brought a fear in my mind lately that I won’t be a mommy again. People say all the time, you will be blessed with many more children, and I think, “What if I won’t be?”. We sang a song this morning and there was a line that pierced my heart:

strong deliverer… bid my anxious fears subside
It hit me. I have had this thought a lot lately that maybe I have made motherhood my idol. I’m pretty sure it was confirmed today that it is my idol. Although the desire is good and from the Lord, He wants to be the desire of my heart, not my role as a mother, wife, or even friend. By no means am I saying that my desire to be a mommy is gone or bad, but until HE is my heart’s desire, then nothing else will work like it should. 
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Psalms 145:16
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9
So like we ended that rich hymn today….
Bid my anxious fears,
Goodbye.
Sep 12

It’s Everywhere

You know how when you buy a new car every time you drive down the road it’s the only car that you see? Well maybe that’s not the case for you, but I seem to do that. It’s the same when you lose something, everywhere I look I see a baby girl in a car seat or a pregnant girl who’s smiling. Some of it’s the phase of life that I am in, but it’s like everyone I know is either pregnant, having a baby soon, or has a young child. It’s crazy, because as I began to write this blog, Dan got home and he seemed down. He told me, “It’s just everywhere… First thing this morning someone asked if we had our baby yet, then I walked outside and saw a dead newborn animal, and then my whole afternoon was about how to deal with patients that are grieving their lost pet.” Point proven.

The thing is that no matter if you’re in the same situation that I am in or something else is going on in your life you have a choice to make. You can either look at the issue and feel sorry for yourself or realize the good that can come from what you are walking through. I have tried as much as I can not to feel sorry for myself, because it just leads to bitterness. I don’t want to be bitter. Although it’s hard to hear of someone having an “easy” pregnancy or get a baby shower invitation in the mail or watch a friend with a healthy newborn and not get jealous, I just don’t want to walk away from this experience of losing my baby girl and not learn something. I do not think she would be proud of me if I did.

I am reading a book about a woman who lost her baby girl, and she compares a lot of her situation to the story of Job. Last night I read this:

For men are not cast off by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
Lamentations 3: 31-33
What does this mean? No suffering for God’s children? No.
It means no meaningless suffering. If God has allowed suffering into your life, it is for a purpose. A good purpose. A holy purpose.
The world tells us to run from suffering, to avoid it at all costs, to cry out to heaven to take it away. Few of us would choose to suffer. Yet when we know that God has allowed suffering into our lives for a purpose, we can embrace it instead of running from it, and we can seek God in the midst of suffering. Accepting suffering drives us deeper in our devotion.
Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead.
You’re not in the drivers seat- I am.
Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.
Self-help is no help at all. Self- Sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?
Luke 9:23- 25 (The Message)

** great book to purchase for you or to send to a friend who’s experiencing a loss **
I actually told someone a few days ago that I was actually thankful for the pain that I am experiencing right now. Am I crazy enough to actually be glad my baby girl had to go, absolutely not, but am I learning who God is in a whole new way, absolutely. I hate the death of my Mary Anna, but so does He. He’s teaching me how to accept the pain and keep walking.


Sep 11

She lived.

There’s something that Dan and I LOVE to do and that is talk about our Mary Anna. We decided early on that we wanted to share her story and every detail about her little life with anyone who would/will listen. She lived. It was a short life but a full one. Most people that would have known our baby girl never got to meet her, so we want them to know her like we do. We want them to know how she slept with her lips in a circle, and that every time her daddy would talk to her that she opened her little eyes. *which is proof boys it’s not silly to talk to your baby while he/she is still in the belly. We want to share her favorite book, and how she liked it when we would sing to her, and the list goes on and on.

My big sister/best friend gave me this bunny at my baby shower, and she told me that she wanted to monogram it. She called me a few weeks ago and reminded me about the bunny and asked what I wanted to do about the monogram. I told her absolutely to monogram that little bunny! During a short trip to see her this week, we picked up that bunny together. The lady at the shop started telling me about her shipping options assuming that  I had a baby at home. Normally that would have made me so sad, but yesterday I left that shop with a grin because I was so thankful that she lived.
As I got home with that bunny, the dogs started quickly sniffing it, and I without hesitation said, “Don’t touch that puppies, it’s your sisters!”. It’s moments like that that remind me how real she was, and yes, that bunny is Mary Anna’s. The more that time goes on, I realize that she has made more of an impact with her 4 days than I have with my twenty something years. Dang! That little princess challenges me. She makes me want to be a better person, and of course, smile the biggest smile when I get to share about her. I realize now that not all mommies who lose their babies get that luxury, so we count ourselves blessed. Very blessed.

Oh and one last thing… She had the sweetest little whimper when she went to sleep, and I still play it everyday.
She lived.
Sep 09

Truth

You don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.
-Tim Keller
Hope is symbolized in Christian iconography by an anchor. And what does an anchor do? It keeps the ship on course when wind and waves rage against it. But the anchor of hope is sunk in heaven, not on earth.
-Gregory Floyd
Sep 06

Lips

I want to dedicate this post to my husband and sweet baby girls lips. Dr. Dan has always been pretty famous for his big lips. The funny thing was is the whole time I was pregnant with Mary Anna, I would joke with D and tell him it was fine if she got his lips. I will never forget one of the first things that the doctor said to us after she was born was, “Look at those lips!”. From then on it became a joke, because everyone who would see her or we would send a picture to would always respond about her little biglips. It was never a question to me who she looked like. I thought it would be fun to compare the two a little, so for your viewing pleasure:

Sep 06

It just hurts

Dear Mary Anna,

I decided to start filling out your baby book today, and I kept my tears in until I saw your tiny hand prints and footprints. It mad me miss you so much. Sometimes when I get really numb I feel like this was all a dream, but when I saw them I remembered how real you really were. Every morning I wake up, all I want to do is snuggle with you and talk to you. It hurts my heart so much that you aren’t here with me and daddy. I got so angry when I saw the rest of the pages in your baby book that said: Your Homecoming, Birth Announcement, First Haircut, First Birthday. I just don’t understand why those pages will stay blank. It’s more than I can handle. I sat in your room to feel close to you and held your little dress that you wore and snuggled your blanket. I opened your lotion and the smell made me physically ache. I just don’t understand. I know you get it now baby girl, but I just don’t.

I love you more than words can express, and I miss you so much.
-your mommy

Sep 06

Walking on Water

The night before Mary Anna’s service, D and I were sitting on our back porch talking to my parents. My dad had one of his moments where he had a thought about how our situation related to the story in Matthew where Peter walked on water.

 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.
  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 
When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 
 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matthew 14:22-33

His analogy went this way….
The moment that you began your pregnancy with Mary Anna you got into the boat. Slowly the waves started crashing in and the storm started getting stronger. You had to face each storm, but you chose to stay in the boat and stay on course. Little did you know that not long after Mary Anna was born that Jesus would ask you to walk on water. He told you to look at him and to step out of the boat. You did just that. You kept your eyes on Him, and you walked on water.
Wow. That’s about all I had to say after that lesson. I don’t say this to mean that I think that Dan and I literally walked on water, but I do know that we’ve been carried through the storms. I also know that as soon as Peter took his eyes off the Lord and began to be afraid that he sank. The choice that we have is to continue keeping our eyes on Him and walking on water or looking away and sinking. Little did my dad know that evening that his analogy would hit even closer to home, when Dan looked at me shortly after and said, “Kari we just have to Keep Walking“. 

Sep 05

Letters

Our church has been absolutely wonderful to us with everything that has been going on in our lives these days. I was cleaning out some emails, and I found the one that our pastor sent out the day after Mary Anna was born. It was a bittersweet read.

To All…

Yes, sweet little Mary Anna Caldwell arrived into our world this past Saturday, delivered at the UAB hospital in B’ham (NICU)2lbs, 10oz…breathing well, eating…beautiful!

She came at 34 weeks – whew!…but outside the womb she now has a much better chance to accelerate growth.  But, of course, that means she will be at UAB for several more weeks.  Kari’s sweet mom is there 24/7, and her grandmother lives in B’ham, so Dan will have perfect accommodations.

We’ll postpone an official church wide celebration till they return, and in the meantime, we can pray & text & support them with love and whatever else from a distance.

No, I don’t have a hospital room # or any other information, but if & when I do, I’ll pass it along as appropriate.

I know Dan & Kari feel our love and loyalty, and down the road they will have many stories of God’s faithfulness to tell us all!

To God be the glory!
Rick Stark, pastor


Then unfortunately he had to send another one two days later, and it still brings tears to my eyes.

Dearest of Friends… Lovers of Jesus and of One Another,

Dan & Kari Caldwell wish that you all could have shared in the joy, welcoming the arrival of God’s gift, Mary Anna Caldwell.  At 34 weeks, she’s a 2lb 10oz bundle of beauty!

However, in God’s sovereignty and extravagant, jealous love for Mary Anna, it appears His special mission for Mary Anna may be over sooner than anyone imagined.  Today it is anticipated that sweet Mary Anna will step into the presence of the Lord, into the certain blessedness of holiness and happiness, and being made brand new for all eternity.

Your church, represented by a few, will be with the Caldwell’s for a special worship service at UAB this afternoon, giving thanks for His indescribable gift and welcoming Mary Anna into the church by water baptism.

As to the Lord’s timing with Mary Anna, we don’t know.  As you can imagine, I can hardly write this without tears.  Please be worshipping and praying with us all, especially for Dan & Kari.  More information will be passed along as appropriate.

Sincerely,
Rick Stark


I can’t put into words how much love that we felt from our church. The church served it’s purpose here on earth by loving us so well. Shortly after I sent this email to Rick our pastor…

Rick,
I just wanted to thank you again for all that you did for us the past week and how you have loved us so well. Saturday, the service was absolutely perfect, and it honored our little Mary Anna. We couldn’t have asked for anything more. Thank you for representing the church and leading us through the dark waters. You have touched us and changed us forever.
Always,
Kari and Dan

And this was his response…

Kari,
Thank you…amazing grace at work, that you would think to encourage me in
the midst of your own pain.

I love you guys, and fell in love with your sweet Mary Anna from the moment
I set eyes on her.  And that you and Dan shared her (and will continue to
share her) with the family & friends you love…it’s a beautiful thing.
This is the beginning of the path of healing.

We are all touched and changed forever…Jesus knew (Luke 18:16).

Betsy and I will be here to walk with you guys every step of the way.

Love & Peace,
Rick


All I can say is thank you Lord for building your church here to serve us as we keep walking through life together. “… on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18


Sep 05

Friends

Y’all I have good friends. The list is too large to write of all the wonderful things that people have done and said to me the past two months. I have been surrounded by so much love and support that I daily feel unworthy for what people have done for us. Tonight I got the sweetest text from a friend, and it said:

I miss Mary Anna tonight.
There’s no way to put into words what that meant to me. Each time I hear someone say her name it’s like music to my ears. Thank you sweet friend for loving me so well and missing my baby girl with me. My dear friend is a lover of music, so in honor of her, here’s another song that we both love that recently has reminded me of my Mary Anna.