The Purple Dress

 

I remember early on peeking into the boy’s room, and wondering where we would fit the new baby? The crib was still up, Elijah hadn’t quite made the transition to a big boy bed yet. We wondered how we should make the new sleeping arrangements work. Is it time to move some of them to the bedroom in the basement? Then I moved on and surveyed our bedroom and decided we would need a basinet for the foot of the bed for the first few months. And then I started thinking about our van… it would be tight, but the van still had one more seat in it that had not yet been filled.

Mentally I started creating space for our little one. The little one that one day we planned on bringing home.

The minute you see those two pink lines on the test, you start creating space for that little one. I think the first space created is usually a mental one, as you start processing the new information. Depending on where you are at in life, there can be a whole range of emotions. There can be sheer joy, disbelief, fear, anger, relief, trepidation, worry, laughter, thankfulness…  the list goes on. But from the moment you find out, whether you like it or not, you can’t help but start the path of creating space.

After receiving Ava’s diagnosis, on multiple occasion’s I would walk into the boy’s room, see the crib that she would probably never sleep in… and I would cry.

The space that I had started dreaming about, and planned on creating for her, the doctors told me she would most likely never use it.

In the day’s following Ava’s passing, everything that came into my house seemed to be purple. There was a memory box from the hospital that had a little gown and a few things that were purple. The flowers that came, the little notebooks and the different special things people sent us, the majority of them were purple. It was a special gift from God, I knew my daughter’s color was purple.

Following a loss there are certain things that hit you, and they make you so angry… irrationally angry. Like when I started my search for the urn to hold her remains. This wasn’t the space I should be making. Instead of preparing the bedroom for her to sleep in, I was looking for an urn for her ashes. It felt so unfair and made me so angry.

Another thing that broke my heart and filled me with anger, was not getting to buy my first little girl a dress. I have bought adorable sweaters, jeans, and hats for my boys. There have beenso many boy clothes that I have bought and gone through over the years, and don’t get me wrong I am more than thankful for my little men. I wouldn’t change them for a second! But I was pregnant with my baby girl and I didn’t get to buy her a dress. It hurt…

At some point I decided, I would buy her a dress. I can add it to her memory box even if she is already gone. I wanted to do this for her… for me…

I went to target, hunting for that purple dress. Everything that came in surrounding her was purple, her dress also needed to be purple. After picking up a few necessities, I headed for the baby section. I started looking for that dress, I found pink dress, after pink dress and a few other colors as well. But no purple…

This thought hit me like a ton of brinks in the middle of the baby section at Target…

“Of course, there are no purple dresses! There is no place for her here, she’s gone.”

All of a sudden, I felt like I couldn’t breath, my vision seemed foggy, everything became completely overwhelming and I had to get OUT of Target. I couldn’t stay in this place. The emotions, the fear and the panic, were waging attacks against which I had no defense but to flee. And so I fled.

It’s a wonder I didn’t just abandon my cart… or crumple to the floor till someone found me… Somehow, I got checked out with my toilet paper and who knows what else. Then I was in the solace of my car where the tears came hard and fast once again. Where I waited for my heart to slow, and my brain to clear so I could drive home.

I talked to Daniel about what happened at Target. I told him about my wanting to buy our little girl a dress, even though she would never where it. He wanted to do that with me as well. The next week we went to the mall together to keep looking for the dress. We couldn’t find one there either, purple must have not been the color that was “in” during that season.

We sat down over dinner and lamented over the daughter we will never get to know this side of heaven. We lamented the dresses that we would never get to buy. And we talked about what we wanted to do for her memorial. The nature of some conversations are so incredibly hard to wade into, but in the end bring balm to your open wounds.

I ended up ordering Ava’s purple dress and my dress for her memorial online. What can I say? The internet has everything.

I brought her dress up at bedtime to show the boys. Caleb looked up at me with a smile “I can just picture her running around up here in that dress mom. “ And with that statement, suddenly all of this hunting for a dress was absolutely worth it. We were all picturing our little blond girl running around the upstairs in that dress.

One of the hardest truths surrounding losing a baby, is that the space you created, the space you made and pictured them in, will never be filled. The crib will remain empty, the drawers as well, that space at the dinner table remains void.

But this whole idea of creating space brought me to these verses.

 

John 14:1-4
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Revelation 21:3-5
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 

The realization that I would no longer need to create space for my daughter hurt, it was hard.

But we are all finite, someday I will no longer be here either, and my things will be cleared out, passed on, given away, thrown away. I won’t need them. This place will no longer be my home. I will be mourned, missed remembered and eventually forgotten. I’m going to be gone. My place here isn’t for forever.

And while that can seem scary or sad, I’m perfectly content with it. Content to wait, and content to leave. For there is someone who has gone before me, who promises that He is creating space for me, that He has prepared a place for me. That He has a forever home for me, for all who believe in Jesus. And this home is so important. For even though we don’t deserve to be a part of a home that is so perfect there is no sin and death, we have one waiting for us. It is just on the other side of the grave for those who believe in Jesus. Because let’s face it, we cannot deny that on our own, we are sinful, and we drag around our sin and our mess with us. And yet, because of his great love for us, Jesus paid for our sin and our mess on the cross, so that we can be completely forgiven, so that He can clothe us in His perfection. So that we can join Him in His home that he is preparing for us. The space that he has made for us.

Isn’t it a wonder that our perfect, gracious, and huge God promises us that He cares about us so much, that He has prepared for us a place in heaven? That He goes before us and assures us of the space that he has made for us. He loves us, and he walks up into that bedroom we’ll live in someday and smiles about how he can’t wait for us to fill that space for eternity.

This home will never wear out. We will never have to say goodbye, and there will always be space for us. We will never worry about being gone and forgotten.

When I am remined that I never got to bring Ava “home” to the space we dreamed of for her.

This also brings me to the place of thanking God that there was a place He prepared for Her to come Home to forever.

I picture her running free in her purple dress in the perfect care of our Savior, Jesus.

What a loving faithful God we serve.

 

 

 

 

Emotions… So many layers

 

Spring is coming. I can feel it. There’s an anticipation deep in my bones.

I can see spring is coming by the way people start driving. The way kids suddenly have more fidgety energy, and declare they NEED to get out. The way teenage boys and girls playfully yell at each other from their cars or across the street. And little purple and white flowers have started peeking out from the ground.

I’m looking forward to spring. I’m looking forward to taking the kids to the park, going on long walks, going to the zoo. Watching the boys play baseball. I’m looking forward to opening the windows and feeling the breeze through the house.

There is a busyness that comes with this season. I love to be busy. I love to go out and do “all the things”. I love people, activities and the sunshine. Daniel often has to remind me to slow down.

Don’t get me wrong I need down time, and I love cuddling up on the couch with a cup of coffee for a quiet afternoon. I love sitting in the back yard with a good book or just watching the kids and dog run freely, while they squeal…eh… screech around the yard.

For a while here I have craved the distraction of spring.

We watched the Pixar movie ‘Inside Out’ the other day. We hadn’t seen it in a while. But man… that movie… all the adults were crying!! The next day Daniel and I were talking about the movie and how it really hits a lot of deep issues regarding our feelings, and how we deal with them. As I was introspectively thinking about my own feelings, I looked over at Daniel and said “Man… I think I just like to have ‘Joy’ running my console all the time…” He just looked back at me, laughed and nodded in agreement.

Nothing makes you realize you can’t have ‘Joy’ running the console all the time like experiencing loss. Experiencing loss has made me feel many layers of emotions. Sometimes these layers of emotions have made it incredibly hard to pick out how I’m actually doing, or what I’m actually feeling.

I’ve had so many conversations with friends in the past year about how important it is to feel your emotions and work through them. Taking the time to do this is a good thing! We have an emotional God. We are made in his image. We are going to experience the full range of emotions. He doesn’t expect us to be ‘happy’ all the time. That’s just not how He made us!

And here I am facing my own advice. Isn’t that just how it works!?! I really just want to stuff it down, burry it and ignore it…but I know I need let all the painful, and complicated emotions roll in and wash over me.

The bright sun and warm winds of Spring are carrying me away from the Winter of loss.

Honestly it’s a really good thing for me that this all happened in the winter. There is so much less distraction, especially in January and February. It’s given me more time to face the rolling emptions.  More time to sit with God. More time to talk with family and friends. More time to talk with the kids. More time to talk with my husband. More time to face my thoughts.

The rain, the sleet and gray days of winter have reflected my mood. It’s a strange feeling, to look out your window and appreciate the weather and its reflection of your grief, the tears in the rain, like the tears in my heart.

As much as I love to encourage and be upbeat. I can’t have ‘joy’ running the ship all the time. I have experienced deep loss, and I need to feel that. Later in time when I am sitting with people in their loss, I want to remember how my heart felt. I need to remember the physical pain. The pit in my stomach and the looming fear of the unknown. I need to let God use all these things to make me look more like Jesus. To bring me close to Him. And also, so I can minister to others who are experiencing deep hurt. So that I can remember the pain and remember the healing on the other side. And allow the time it takes, for me and for others, to heal.

The time table of healing isn’t something we can hurry up and ‘get through’. As they say, “you can’t rush art!” And there is an art to grieving. It leaves a mark on your soul. It leaves a different reflection for each of us. It looks different for every person and experience. Our own expression, our own fingerprint, of loss.

Dealing with these rolling emotions during the cold months has allowed me more time to sit and process.

It’s a dance, to sit in the moments and feel the hurt, pain and sorrow, and then know when it needs to be time to get up and push through. It’s not a cut and dry process. It’s a back and forth  dance.

In the movie Inside Out the characters learn the importance of the range of emotions, and that experiences are often colored with multiple emotions. It’s not unusual to experience joy and sorrow simultaneously. Often our memories of different times bring up a range of feelings.

As things start to feel easier again, I’m learning to not feel guilty on the days when I feel joy and want to tackle the world. And I’m learning to have grace for myself on the days where the layers of feelings vary, and are complicated.

I don’t have to be happy all the time!! Sigh of relief… There is freedom in letting go.

And you know, if I feel like dancing in my kitchen, I am going to kick aside those thoughts of “you shouldn’t be feeling happy yet”, and I am going to dance in my kitchen!

I am looking forward to the warmth of spring. I am having more good days. More joy coming out again.

In a lot of ways sitting in the warmth of the sun reminds me of basking in the warmth of God’s love. I think I’ve felt this way about it since I was a child. And in this season as the weather changes there is a new depth to this feeling.

I am thankful for the different creative ways God uses to wrap His arms around us.

 

Psalm 31:7-8
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to Ava

 

I shared this letter at Ava’s memorial. Now I’m sharing it here with you.

 

Dear Ava,

My Ava Hope. My first little girl.

You were only with me for 20 weeks, or in other words, 4 and a half months. But you impacted our lives on such a deep level. Honestly it’s still hard to understand the depth. But we all feel the absence of your presence and we miss you.

My list of experiences with you are much too short. But I will still treasure them. I treasure the times I saw you flipping and wiggling all around in the ultrasounds. I’ll treasure feeling you move. I craved pop tarts and halal guys, very weird… but those things will always remind me of you. I’ll treasure all the trips I took with you, trips to the zoo, New York city, Niagara falls, and just being pregnant with you through the regular routine’s of our life. We even flew out to Washington with your brother Elijah. You were right there with me for my first big speaking engagement. It’s fitting that I was speaking on encouraging women in the Lord. My prayer is that your story will bring encouragement and hope to many women throughout my life.

There are so many things that I hoped to experience with you. I wish we had been able to gaze into each others eyes and meet face to face for the first time.

I wish that you would have flooded our very blue world with pink and purple. Even before we found out you were a girl we were teasing your brothers about the possibility of all the girl toys that would invade their playroom and the girl shows that would be on the tv. They would act so upset! But the truth is they were all wishing it would be true. You see they had prayed for you dear Ava, they had prayed for a baby sister. They were excited about you the second they found out mommy was expecting another baby.

I wish that you would have given me sleepless nights, times for priceless moments with just me and you, quiet moments with me nursing you and rocking you while you fall back to sleep.

I wish that I could have bathed and dressed you. I wish that I could have hugged you and wiped away your tears.

I wish that I could have fought with you over all of the things…

I wish that I could have watched the wonder in your eyes as you discovered your world.

I wish that I could have known your personality and the way you laugh.

I wish that I could have known the fear and pride that parents talk about when they watch their little girl turn into a woman.

I wish that I could have watched your daddy with His little girl. I know you would have brought out a new tender side of him.

I wish that I could have watched him walk you down the aisle someday…

I wish that I could have told you about Jesus and how much He loves you. But that is something you now understand better than your mommy. And that makes me smile and again brings me hope.

There are a thousand things that I long to have experienced with you, and hoped for you.

It’s funny because I will always picture what things would have been like with you in a perfect world. Because from the very beginning things were imperfect.

I will always picture you whole and perfect here. And I will always romanticize what our relationship would have looked like and how you would have fit into our family and who you would have grown up to be.

I know things would never have been as perfect as I picture them.

But in so many ways imagining the perfect relationship is so fitting for us. Because someday when I meet you there on the other side of death, our relationship will be perfect. It will be more perfect than any romanticized version of us I could have imagined. With Jesus, with the Lord where there is no more sin. No more darkness. We will be both be perfect and I will enjoy getting to know you and being with you forever.

Ava Hope-   I love your name little girl. Ava means bird, and it also means life.

Living Hope-   Your name is a reminder of the living hope we have because of Jesus. Just thinking about your name brings me comfort.

There is sorrow in this life, but with the Lord there is a greater hope little one. And I am clinging to that.

I am clinging to the foundational truth of God’s word and the hope that it gives me.

I love you Ava Hope. And I will miss you until we meet again someday.

 

Your Mommy