Dec 31

Relationships

As I have reflected on my last post, I still am shocked at times at the things that I actually admit on this little blog here. Thankfully, I do have a filter, because if I am totally honest the angriest or most disappointed that I have been seems to come across much tamer on the internet. Not sure if that makes my faithful readers impressed or think, “whew! I do not want to be her!” Don’t worry, I do not want to be me a lot of days either. I tend to argue with the Lord a lot when I start to write hard things, because I have felt very called to be transparent and tell my full story, but at times I feel too vulnerable. What about so and so who I really do not want to read this or what about that person that I think that I have convinced that I am perfect and if they find out I am blogging, they will quickly learn that I am not and my cover will be blown?

I am an extrovert.
I love people.
I need people.
Relationships are very important to me.

As I hear my own words in my head, “I am disappointed in some relationships and that some people have not cried with me”, I wonder why is that? Like I have said, I have spent the past few days slightly regretting publishing what is hard for me right now, and I have also wondered why I have felt the way that I have/do. It hit me last night as Dan and I were reading the Word together before bed. I am resting in people more than God. Now, people that is easy to say, but it is not easy to do. My disappointment should be in myself, that even in the depths of my grief, my sinful nature still for some reason can not learn to fully rely on my King.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28
And as I read this morning and fought writing this post that would again expose the reality of how broken that I am, this verse that I memorized probably in elementary school came to me, and quietly the Lamb of God said to me, “Come… sit… stay with me… rest in me… I love you, and I have already fixed this… no one will give you peace like I will.” So, as we enter 2014 tonight without our Mary Anna, and as we try to gain the courage to look at a new year and wonder if it could ever get worse that losing her, I am challenging myself and anyone who is willing to look to Him alone. As hard as it is coming from the person who frets about her friendships more than anyone I am sure, look only to Jesus to make you feel better. Trust only in Him for comfort and peace. And if you do, you will slowly see the good things in your relationships taste a little sweeter and the bad things you do not seem to notice as much.
The day Mary Anna was born, I checked my C.S. Lewis ap on my phone, and this is what it read:
… we have not the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.
Keep Walking
because she keeps teaching us how.
Dec 28

Disappointed

Dis-ap-point-ed
: feeling sad, unhappy, or displeased because something was not as good as expected or because something you hoped for or expected did not happen
: defeated in expectation or hope
Merriam- Webster

As I was discussing a situation with a friend that just does not seem to be turning out like she expected, she told me, “I guess I am just a little disappointed.” I told her that I got that, that I was disappointed with a lot right now too, and it is hard when you set your expectations to something and it just does not seem to turn out like you expected. She replied, “Yeah.. I guess disappointed is a bad word, I’m not sure how to sum it all up in one word.” I hung up after we wrapped up our conversation, which was about happy things too might I add, wondering why I feel disappointed right now. I wondered what being disappointed really meant, hence the corny Webster dictionary definition. The list goes a little like this:
I am disappointed that Mary Anna was not here Christmas morning.
I am disappointed that her life was too short.
I am disappointed in some relationships.
I am disappointed in the fact that so many people forget that I am a mom.
I am disappointed when I see D cry because it breaks my heart.
I am disappointed that I am not strong.
I am disappointed that at times I have been fake to pretend that I am okay when I am not.
I am disappointed that more people have not cried with me.
I am disappointed in God that he chose us to have the sick baby.
I am disappointed basically because things have not gone my way.
What is the root of my disappointment right now? A lack of control. A lack of trust. A lack of confidence in who Dan and I have become. A lack of peace in who the Lord has called us to be. When I looked up the definition of disappointment, that last one hit me, defeated in expectation or hope. 
I am disappointed because I feel defeated.
The Lord replies to me and brings me to Him. He tells me, “For I am the Lord you God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
And then it really hits me. I am not disappointed in Mary Anna, for she was a better gift than I expected, and if I truly believe, which I do, that God chose us to have her and HE chose to call her home early, then I am really not disappointed in Him. Satan lately has wanted to show me all the disappointments, and unfortunately at times I listen to his schemes and forget how truly lucky I am that the King of Kings chose measly Dan and I to carry the story of Mary Anna Caldwell. He gave us her life to share and to cherish. She is ours, and we are His. 
Truthfully, I am not disappointed. I am thankful. I just have to continue to remind myself that.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
 For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior
Isaiah 43:2-3
Dec 24

Christmas Eve

My dearest baby girl,

I have taken a little time away to spend with you daddy and enjoy life away from the Internet. Your daddy and I went on a road trip, and we talked about you a lot. We have tried to enjoy Christmas, because as you already see in completion, it is about Jesus. He is the reason for the season, and we cling to the Hope in Him always. Although we have hope and peace, we miss you so much. This morning we cried together, because your Christmas pajamas are still in your drawer, and our hearts are so sad. Your stocking is hung, but you will never see it or get to open a stocking with us, and that breaks our hearts. There are so many special things that we would have done with you at Christmas time. EVERY year our home will be missing a very special girl, and we will never celebrate a day of life without missing you, sweet angel. I wanted to make cookies this year with you in a sling with me, and I wanted to wrap presents and tell you what all you had to look forward to. Your daddy really wanted to show you all of his favorite Christmas movies, and probably would have snuck a little taste of hot chocolate to you way too early! Your BeBe and Doc would have probably gotten you way too many presents even though you would only be a little over 5 months old, but that is okay, because it would have made them so happy.

Merry Christmas baby girl. My heart is so full with thankfulness at the birth of our Savior, yet I feel so empty and numb this morning without you. You are my heart, and I Keep Walking for you sweet baby Mary Anna.

I love you so much,
your mommy

P.S. One of my dearest friends wrote you a letter as a Christmas present to you, and it was the sweetest gift that anyone has given to you. She wrote a lot of very precious things, and she ended her letter with: “Thank you for changing my life and my attitude about life. You are an inspiration just like your mommy! I love you!” So, I just wanted to say again how proud that I am of you, because you are doing it baby girl, you are changing lives.

Dec 17

In the Morning

In the morning, when I rise 
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus.
Bernice Johnson Reagan

As I fixed my breakfast this morning, D asked me if I was okay. I simply said, “It’s just like you have to re-process it again every single morning.” Quietly he responded, “I know…” When I do not have time in the mornings to think, I usually have hard days, because it takes me a long time in prayer and in the Word to have the strength to get going on my day. All I can do is ask for more of Him and less of me. 
As I looked for a sweet picture of my baby girl, I came across the ones of her tiny little hands. The bruises on her hands make it hard, but it’s part of who she was. I tend to only want to show the pictures where she looked peaceful, but this is truly what our days looked like with our baby girl. Lots of tubes, bruises, scars, and tears. Give me Jesus.
Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.
C.S. Lewis
Dec 15

Walking

Beware as I share this story that it might be a hard one to read, but if you can stick with me, because I think you will be moved as I have been.

I laid her body down and wept so loud that I am sure the men on the sidewalk many floors below could hear my screams. I held her and kissed her lips. I screamed to my love, “HOW DO WE DO THIS?” How was she gone? How do 26 year old children walk away from their baby girl? Her dress was white, and she was beautiful. It was the only white dress that she would ever wear, how could this be? I was so sad, confused, angry, and somehow happy and proud that she was mine. My stomach ached from being so empty, my scar hurt from the surgery and from not resting, my throat was parched, my eyes swollen, and my husband held me up, because I could barely walk. Father where are you right now? How is my 4 day old baby gone?

I loved her more than I ever knew that I could.

This memory haunts me. The day she went to heaven was the hardest day of my life. I wake up sometimes in the middle of the night with this picture in my head. I can still close my eyes and see my baby girl lifeless in that NICU, and the sun setting on her little body. My heart feels guilt for walking away sometimes, because I never wanted to leave her. I am not sure how I ever kept walking after that day. There are days I do not know how I am walking. This morning, a friend sent me this song and it touched me.

I Keep Walking, because I call upon the name above all names and keep my eyes on Him, because just like the song says, “I am yours and you are mine.” I am His, and He is mine. He walks for me, and He walked for me that dreaded night on July 17th.
All the nations may walk
in the name of their gods;
we will walk in the name of the Lord
our God for ever and ever.
Micah 4:4

I will Keep Walking wherever He calls me.
Dec 12

December 12

As I wake up today and slowly drink my coffee out of my snowman mug, I can not help but have a somber heart. This year December 12th has hit me like a load of bricks. My sweet, supportive friend is hurting today, so I am hurting too. She lost her brother too long ago, and today would have been a day to celebrate another birthday, another year, another memory, but instead it is a day to wonder why life seems to be so hard. I remember not long after I got to know her that she told me about her brother and the accident where she and her parents lost him, but even though my heart ached for it, it did not hit me until this year how painful it is to loose someone who barely lived.

During this time of grief, she has been a friend who has wept every single time that I have. She misses Mary Anna with me, and she talks about her every time I am around her. I think back on how insensitive I could have been to her and other people who have lost someone so dear, because now, unfortunately, I get the pain. I get the longing to want to keep their memory alive, talk about them, dream about what life would look like now, and yearn to be with them again one day. It’s like someone told me not long after we lost our baby girl that losing a child is like being “in a club that you never wanted to be a part of.” My friends parents wrote me a note about how they ache every time they hear of someone losing a child, because they always hoped that no one had to feel their pain. I agree.

Today, on December 12, 2013, I miss TJ with you my friend. I wish that I would have known him and loved him like you did. I am sorry. I miss my Mary Anna more, because you taught me how to keep her alive and never let her go. I will never forget your sweet brother, and thank you for never forgetting my baby girl. What a treasure from the Lord to have someone walk through this dark hour with me.

See I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.
Isaiah 65:17-19
Dec 12

Ultrasound

As we walked into the elevator after about our fourth ultrasound, my mom grabbed my arm and started crying. She was with me, because Dan could not make this appointment, and I needed some support with me that day. It was long before we had any fears about Mary Anna, but there was a question of whether I had a serious clotting issue or not, so I was referred to UAB to confirm or deny that concern. The answer would determine if I would need to be on shots during my entire pregnancy or a baby aspirin. All the news was good, and it was confirmed, no clotting issue, and a baby aspirin was the golden ticket. They wanted to me to leave with a full work-up, so they did an ultrasound to confirm that everything was okay with what we would soon know as baby girl Mary Anna.

My mom cried, yes, because I was okay, and yes, because I did not have to continue nightly shots in my stomach, but mostly because of something that had not occurred to me. She softly said, “I have never seen an ultrasound before.” I began to cry too at that point. It hit me. I had never thought about how my pregnancy was not only a gift to Dan and I, but also to my sweet parents. My mom could never get pregnant, so she never got to walk through all these tiny little things that even I took for granted at the time. It was so neat to watch my mom light up at each little step that we took with Mary Anna, because it was all so new to her. She always told my brother and I that we grew in her heart, but it was precious to see how much she enjoyed watching me be pregnant.

Unfortunately as things continued to get more and more complicated, we had to have more and more ultrasounds. I have no idea how many we ended up having, but it was a little unreal. Of course, we loved seeing our girl so much and watching her grow, but it was also hard, because we knew that nothing we were going through was a “normal” pregnancy. Some friends of ours taped their ultrasound pictures up in the kitchen and bedroom, so before we announced our pregnancy, we taped our pictures in our room, and after it was public knowledge, we taped them in our kitchen. Still to this day our sweet Mary Anna’s pictures are up. They are such a gift to remember how much she changed and grew each week that went by and what a true miracle that life is. Many times that I stop and look at them, I picture my mom on that elevator holding my arm and know how Mary Anna’s little life changed each one of us.

Dec 09

Sunday Thoughts

As sweet Audrey walked to the stage during the service with her violin in hand, I could feel the tears start welling up. I had no idea what she was about to play, and she began to play “O Holy Night” with a soft acoustic guitar and piano in the back ground.

There were no words, just music.

I shut my eyes, and began to wonder what Christmas was like in heaven.
Do they decorate?
Are there trees?
Do they give presents?
What is it like to spend Christmas with Jesus?

Tears began to flow at the thought of my baby girl having her first Christmas with Jesus.

What is she like?
Is she still a baby or is she already grown?
Does someone take care of her or is she self-sufficient?
Can she sing or play the violin flawlessly like Audrey does?

I do not know, and I will not know for a long time.

My emotions are such a mixture of inexpressible joy that my baby is healed and with Jesus in heaven at Christmas time, like can you really take that in, but also extreme sadness, because I will never get to see her on the stage at church, wrap her gifts and see her rip them open, read her the Christmas story on Christmas eve, or take her caroling.

Oh Lord, where is your sovereign plan in all of this? My heart is so confused.

The sermon came and went, and we began to take communion. I walked to the front of the church, and as Rick, our pastor, was holding the bread, I took a piece, and he looked into my eyes and softly said:

Kari, Christ’s body was given for you.

Then I walked across the front of the church, and Scott, one of the deacons, as I quietly grabbed a cup of juice said:
Kari, Christ’s blood was shed for you.

I knew at that moment what a Holy night my Mary Anna will spend in heaven. I miss her everyday, but it seems just a bit worse leading up to Christmas. At times, I catch myself not in a conversation, but my mind trailing off to her and what she would think about all the lights on the trees, her stocking that is hung, and the love of her mommy and daddy. The truth is that she sees Jesus all day everyday, and what a celebration it must be when the violin starts playing “O Holy Night” in heaven, and she can touch her Savior’s scarred hands, and she can hear Jesus say himself:
Mary Anna, my body was given for you.
Mary Anna, my blood was shed for you.

Dec 05

Traditions

Ever since I read this blog post that a friend emailed me a while back, I have been thinking about the traditions that I want to do with our family to celebrate Mary Anna’s life. I talked to Dan about it, and I told him about the blog that I read, where she encourages you to find ways to remember your baby’s life. We decided with that Christmas being the first big milestone besides Thanksgiving that we would have to walk through without our baby girl, that we wanted to do something to celebrate her each year at Christmas time. Christmas is very important to us, so after debating on what to do, we decided to order Mary Anna a stocking.

Since Christmas is such a big deal to us, we have always known that it would be a big deal for our children. We want to do things to celebrate Mary Anna not only for her and us, but for our future children. I am adopted, and my parents always made that apart of my life growing up. It was never something that made me different, but it was something that made me special. I have always loved the way that God placed our family together, and I think the fact that our future children have a big sister in heaven makes them special. Being adopted has always given me a different perspective on life and family, and I hope that Mary Anna will give that to our children. So, Dan and I thought it would be fun for each year to hang a stocking in her memory, and have a time where we talk about her and remember her at Christmas. What a better time then when we are celebrating the birth and death of our  Savior.

Now this all is to be said with some reservation, if you have ever lost a baby, there are a lot of mixed emotions on how people will perceive the things that you do. D and I want to remember Mary Anna and her life, but at times we feel like people do not want to talk about her, because she is too painful to talk about. I get that. There’s also a little bit of, “Am I crazy for doing this?”, each time we decide to remember her in a way like this. As any smart girl would do, I called my mom and told her what we were thinking, and immediately she began to cry and say that she had wanted to get her a stocking too, but that she did not want to upset us. So sweet baby girl Mary Anna has a stocking at our house and at my parents house. It was a joy to hang it up, and it will be our joy to hang it every year. She is a part of our family.

Lastly as I was sharing this with my other mom, she encouraged me to take the ways that we choose to remember Mary Anna by to do something good with them. We have not decided how or what we will do, but I loved the idea of filling her stocking with gifts for needy children, donations to the NICU, etc. It will be interesting to see how the Lord leads us to continue to honor Mary Anna’s life for His Kingdom. I am excited to see how she not only continues to change Dan and I’s life, but how she will change our children’s lives.

Dec 04

Reminders

I apologize for the excessive amount of beautiful sunset pictures, but I just can’t get enough of them. Like really? How can you not know that there is a God when you see this.

Recently I was reading, and I came across a passage that I had not read in a long time. In my Bible, I had written at the top of the chapter her name, Mary Anna. A family friend told us that they were praying this passage over Mary Anna everyday before she was born, so we began to do the same. We prayed it every waking hour, and I have been praying the same prayer again and again. The Lord provides.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
If you make the Most High your dwelling- even the Lord, who is my refuge- then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.
parts of Psalms 91