Disappointment, Ducks, and Daily Miracles



Earlier in the week my daughter was diagnosed with a virus but was starting to feel better.  I did not feel right about sending her to Preschool for fear of possibly infecting other children, but she was feeling better so was sad when I told her she was not joining her brother at school.  To make her feel better I told her we would go on an ADVENTURE!!

I suppose the  Mandy Arioto video from my last MOPS meeting was still resonating because as I remembered how she told of her parents sending her and her siblings out of the house to find an 'adventure', it made me excited to teach my little girl that adventures were fun!

We start our adventure at Starbucks.  Mommy gets her Pumpkin Spice Latte and my Aria gets an apple juice and cake pop.  She is so excited to have something that isn't oatmeal!  Because seriously, how sinfully great is it when you get to have cake for breakfast.  Amen to that.

Next we venture to the cemetery where I tell her we are going give flowers to Ethan and feed the ducks and turtles!  This was a point of anxiety for me because when I chose the final resting place of my little boy, what won me over was this amazing man made pond with a gorgeous fountain, gazebo, and in the background there were 3 huge crosses.  I remember thinking it was amazing.  A place to remember my son is with Jesus and a place where my children would remember their visits to the cemetery as a fun time in which we celebrated Ethan's life, taught them about Christ, and of course fed the ducks!  However, in the last year I had visited his grave alone I had seen zero signs of ducks.

As we make our way to the cemetery, for the first time ever I'm not thinking about Ethan.  I'm praying that God would put some ducks in this flipping pond!  You see, as soon as I told Aria that she would be feeding the ducks, she was so excited she asked me to get the bread.  And she did not let go of this bread.  She almost cried when I told her she could not bring the bread into Starbucks.  I don't think I've ever seen her so excited, which made my anxiety and guilt grow.  "What if there are no ducks.  I've never seen ducks there. What have I done!"

So as I drive along I keep praying, "Please Lord give us this.  Give Aria and I this moment, she is so excited.  Give me a reason to smile in this place that makes me weep with excruciating pain.  Just give me this."

We arrive and she helps me put the flowers in Ethan's vase.  She was such a good helper.  I could feel him smile as the sunlight hit my back through the tree is gravestone is underneath.  At that moment the pond sparkles under the sunlight and Aria stands up and says, "Momma!  Let's go feed the ducks!"  She starts off running with the bag of old bread in hand and I follow her. 

We reach the pond...no ducks.  So I am hopeful that maybe there are turtles as I had seen them on prior visits.  So she starts throwing bread crumbs in the water.  Minnows. Lots of minnows start eating at the bread.  My heart sank.  There are no ducks.  There are no turtles.  I try to get Aria excited as I exclaim, "Look at the fish, we are feeding the fish!" She looks at me and says, "Momma, where are the ducks?"  Her disappointment cuts me right to the bone.  Suddenly I think this place, this cemetery that is filled with beautiful flowers is just a place to decorate disappointment.  We place flowers on the graves of those we have lost but we are heart-broken that they are no longer here.  They are no longer able to smell those roses, prick their fingers on the thorns, place those petals under their pillow to dream of the one they are to marry. 

My mind instantly went to a recent conversation with my husband.  We were leaving church and he commented that people in this day have a hard time grasping the Bible because Jesus was alive performing miracles and we don't see Him performing those miracles today.  Basically, he was acknowledging that faith (believing what you cannot see) is hard to grasp without a glimpse of some metaphysical event that results in an awe inspiring great event, in short, a miracle.  I agreed that it so many people do not understand the concept of faith.  But spoke about how miracles do happen every day.  Children are pulled from wells, girls found after 10 years of abduction, cancer patients being told inexplicably there are no more signs of the disease, and people dying and coming back to life with inspirational stories of the light, Jesus, and Heaven.  Miracles happen every day but people are reluctant to claim it as a miracle.  They attribute these divine interventions to coincidence or chance. 

So as Aria and I stand there by the pond, my heart was heavy that this one prayer, this one mini-miracle in which I asked to occur was just not going to happen.  And truthfully I was little irritated. Maybe this was just a sad way to teach my daughter that disappointments are just a fact of life.  Scrounging to save this moment I see some ripples in the distance and tell Aria we should head down to the fountain and maybe we will find some turtles to feed. She excitedly starts running toward the fountain. I follow her.  I can't help but to smile because she is still so full of hope, so happy to continue on this adventure.

Just as I start trying to conjure up what other excuse of lack of any animal to feed, I look over and there is blinding glare on the pond.  I look again, and I can't believe my eyes.  Swimming toward us are two beautiful ducks.  I whisper-scream to Aria, "Aria!!  Look at the ducks!"  She immediately starts throwing bread into the pond and saying, "Come here, come here ducks!"

And there it was, an answered prayer, my miracle.  I certainly didn't deserve it with my immediate anger and lack of faith after initially seeing no ducks.  But that is the beautiful thing about grace and miracles, we never deserve them.  But lucky us, He gives them to us daily.  And with that we can have hope, and continue on this great adventure.

Surrender

What an amazing quote, decision and life-altering declaration!  I came across this today on Pinterest and the timing could not have been better.  I truly believe this is what God was trying to convey to me as I laid awake 3:00 AM this morning.  It was after I sang the Matchbox 20 song in my head for half an hour, nevertheless His presence was there.  The truth is, in that moment I did feel lonely.  Which is crazy because my life is non-stop as a full-time wife, mother, part-time Project Manager, maid, cook, house manager, book-keeper...my life just does not stop.  But there alone in the dark stillness of early mornings, I rarely feel peace.
I usually start thinking about Ethan and my thoughts head to the darkest memories.  Then I starting getting anxious that I won't be able to stop thinking about him thus not be able to fall asleep, there in which I will be exhausted when my daughter wakes me up at 6:00 AM. And then what if I fall asleep on the couch and one of my kids gets hurt!  Dang...I need a Xanax right now just thinking about it.
However, if I am completely honest with myself, a rarity these days, I know that it's not just in those late nights that I let my mind wonder to the point of panic.  My husband teases me that I am the consummate planner.  Always thinking ahead.  To the next vacation, next house project, next room to decorate, next house to buy, next season, next kid's birthday party, next, next, next!  And he is right.  I usually just tell him I was born this way I can't help it!  To some degree I can blame it on the fact that, like this morning at 3:00 AM, any stillness which forces me to really absorb the present, I find myself looking around for a blond-haired, blue-eyed 4 year old that I know I will not see.
So perhaps for me it's just easier to lose myself in planning and looking forward to things that might make the pain of this presence easier.  And I believe that God does want that for all of us to some degree.  God does want us to work for tomorrow, and yearn for the coming of His Son and for the wonder and awe that awaits us in heaven.  But I know He does not want us to constantly be planning and and worrying what, when, and how we will build our treasures on earth without stopping and thanking Him for the blessings He has already provided.
So as I read Julia Cameron's declaration I feel God is asking me to do the same.  To slow down and firmly plant my feet down and feel the earth.  To acknowledge the pain of the present imperfect world.  For He is asking me to acknowledge, hold fast, and fight this good fight.  I am now starting to understand and even trust that He will keep His end of the bargain and finish what He has started.
I believe we will grow from the unanswered prayers, heartaches, and disappointments and God will use these to mold and guide us to that place and moment where alas all is right with world.   And for me, I can then open my eyes and see the smile of a perfect, beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed boy.

Sanity, Starbucks, and Solace

Yesterday was a rollercoaster of emotion.  It was the first day of preschool for both of my little ones!  After a hectic morning I managed to get both kids dressed, fed, lunches packed, and out the door.  On the way to preschool I was feeling tired because my daughter is going through a wake-up, wake Mommy up, and beg for chocolate milk at 4:00 AM phase.  In the madness of getting the kiddos ready, my coffee sat on the counter untouched.  At this point my eyes started glossing over and the only thing I could think about was the Starbucks that was 2 miles away from the preschool.  But that thought was instantaneously met with guilt as I just promised my husband I would cut down on frivolous spending.  So at that moment, I realized the financially responsible thing to do is to go home and nuke the the now chilled coffee that awaits my return. Ughhhh...

So we make it to school, I'm trying to excite Aria who is clearly showing signs of angst, and in the the door we go.  The first door we pass is the classroom for the 4 year olds.  I see the teacher has put all of their names on 4 leaf clovers - very clever and cute.  I smile until my eyes see one of the clovers has the name "Ethan" on it.  I felt like someone punched me right in the gut.  Now I know that Ethan is a common name but it still hurts when I see it.  Especially when he would be four at this time.  I immediately thought, "That would be his classroom if he were alive, that should be his clover."  My sanity is clearly being tested today.

With the rest of the children filing into the hallway I was quickly snapped out of my momentary trance.  It was loud, my heart hurt, and I really needed a flipping cup of COFFEE!  Okay focus, I have to get my two other children to their classrooms with the least amount of kicking and screaming as possible. Deep breath.  Let's do this.

I drop Gabe off first.  He did really well once I gave him a pacifier.  Oh that pacifier...he's gonna be a tough cookie to break on that.  To my surprise, Gabe's teacher handed me $10.00 and told me I had overpaid for Gabe's school bag. Yay extra $$!

Next, Aria.  As expected she was less agreeable to being dropped off than her little brother.  She immediately starting crying and took a little bit of hugging and singing to get her calmed down but finally she does and I kiss her goodbye and dash out the door.  I walk past the 4 year class room and glance at the Ethan clover and sigh.  I sit in my car and exhale.  Sooo tired and emotional.   Wait...I have an extra $10.00!  I thank God for his small blessings and head to Starbucks.

I pull into the Starbucks drive-through (a blessing in itself) and I almost fell out of my seat.  The Pumpkin Spice Latte is BACK!  It is ninety-five million degrees outside and I, practically hyperventilating with excitement, order a piping hot pumpkin spice latte.  I  take a sip, and there it is, that unmistakable flavor that's like a warm hug from an old friend.  

It's funny how some smells and tastes can elicit memories.  Because I have been drinking this cult classic since Starbucks introduced it, I have quite a few memories associated with this holiday treat.  The one that came to me was a true blessing.  It was Ethan's first Halloween.  He was four months old and I told my husband Ethan and I were going pumpkin hunting.  Ethan and I headed to a local pumpkin stand.  I put his little chubby self in my baby bjorn and off we went.  It was a special moment for me, holding him closely, picking out his first pumpkin.  And as I opened my eyes, wiped my tears, I realized how good God really is.  The clover, the extra $10, the pumpkin spice latte; it all brought me back to a special moment with my son.  In that moment, I was with Ethan again. And that was the solace I needed. 



 

Letters to Ethan

Dear Ethan,

So today your Momma is doing something I have been thinking about for a long time.  I'm starting a blog.  I realize that if I told the earthly 18 month old you I was staring a blog you would say, "Blocks!  Play blocks Momma!"  But something tells me the heavenly you understands far more than I could ever imagine.  My hope is that this blog helps other moms like me who miss their babies they way I miss you. 

It's been really tough for me since you left me that night.  The past two and half years have been so dark.  But in the midst of darkness there has been some light.  Like the birth of your sister.  I remember the night we find out you were going to have a little sister.  You and Dadda were playing a bubbles game on the new Kindle Fire.  You were having so much fun.  So when the Ultrasound Technician said, "It's a Girl!," we screamed and Dadda started tearing up and hugged you so hard.  And you said, "Bubbles!"  So you weren't as excited as we were, but we knew you were going to be the best big brother ever!

After many vicious rounds of For the love of everything that is holy can we just decide on a name for this child!, your Dad and I settled on Aria.  I remember when I told you, I put your hand on my growing stomach and said, "This is your sister, Aria." And without blinking, you looked at me and with perfect pronunciation said, "Aria." I swear I can still hear you saying it like it was yesterday.

Your Dad finally agreed to the name Aria because an aria is a melody for a solo voice in an opera.  Given your dad's musical background he thought that was pretty cool.  More interesting though, Aria means "lion" in Hebrew.  The Lion, a symbol of strength and the leader of the animal kingdom.   We had no idea at the time how perfect this name was for your sister.  After you left for heaven, we thought we were going to lose her.  My heart was shattered and my body felt just as broken.  But she was strong.  She was a fighter.  And after a very close call, and extreme monitoring, she came out screaming so LOUD!   The nurses in the OR literally said, "that's the loudest one we have had in awhile." She was already trying to get my attention and remind me that she needed me.  And I needed her.  She had a big role to fill, she was now going to be the leader of our children.

When she sleeps, she still looks just like you.  Sometimes when I do my nightly check on her (usually 3-4 times a night just like I did with you) I look at her and my heart stops.  I could swear I'm looking at you...you could have been twins.  And she is incredibly smart, just like you.  And she is such a good big sister to your new brother, Gabriel.  I can't wait to tell you more about him!  But that's for another night.  For now I know that you will continue to be the best big brother ever, and watch over your little sister and little brother.  I love you and I miss you every second of every minute of every day.  I am sending you a big kiss just like the one I gave you below!

Love you for eternity,

Momma