Normal?

February 25, 2010

It’s been some time since I’ve felt like blogging and had time to blog at the same time.  It’s in part because I’ve felt like things are getting back to normal a bit.  It’s weird, because as much as I want to get back to normal, I am overwhelmed at all that normal has to offer.  Can I handle all that my life consisted of prior to losing Hosanna, for more than a week or so?  Can I truly sustain this pace of life, now that my energies have been so depleted?  What makes normal so abnormal is how uncertain I feel about my capacity to handle it, which leaves me feeling unsettled.  It’s inescapable — the more I want things to be normal, the more unsettled and dissatisfied I feel with the way things are.  The more I sit and accept the fact that normal will be abnormal for some time, the more I want God to give me that instant fix, and the more I strive for it myself.

Frankly, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that God and others owe me something.  When I ask God for something in prayer, part of me wants to tell God that answering my prayer is the least He can do for not saving Hosanna.  When a stranger or another person is hateful to me, part of me wants to shock them with what has happened in my family within the past month, just to make them feel terrible about themselves.  After all, the world owes me, right?  I know that in order to avoid bitterness, and to keep from allowing myself to be defined by my past and my tragedy, I must work through these feelings and come to terms with the fact that no one owes me anything.  The kindness that God and people offer me is not because I deserve it, but because they have chosen to be kind.  I am exceedingly grateful for that kindness.

I also notice how unsettled I feel when I hear of things that happen to people close to me.  When I see good happen to someone, part of me wonders why it couldn’t have happened to me.  When I see disaster strike someone close to me, I wonder whether God has just been on vacation for the first part of 2010.  And believe me, I’ve seen much of both within the past month, and I call out to God for justice on behalf of all of us who have been rendered powerless at the hands of a fallen world’s evils.  Within the past month, God has allowed me to stare evil in the face in so many different ways, and I wonder why He’s allowed me and Julee to walk this path.  I wonder why, not in a “what’s the greater purpose of this suffering” kind of way, as if I need every event in my life to have meaning and to be part of God’s plan, but in more of a “couldn’t I have been afflicted in another way” kind of way.  I don’t expect to ever have a satisfactory answer for that question, and the trite Christianisms of “God closes a door to open another” or “God has a plan” do more to anger me than give me peace.  I cannot imagine a God that requires tragedies like this (and so many others that we’ve seen in our world just this year) as integral parts of some “plan” for our lives.  That understanding leaves me with the same question, “couldn’t there have been another way?”

Truth is, I don’t think I’ll have an answer, but I do have a God that understands and seeks to comfort those who are afflicted.  He has done much to comfort me, though I still have more moments of unsettledness than moments of peace.  I ask you to pray that peace overcomes discord, and that evil is overcome by good for so many in my life and around the world who are in a season of pain.

Two Weeks

February 20, 2010

It’s been two weeks.  I have mixed feelings about it too.  I’m sad, and of course, still devastated at the loss of my daughter, and I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since losing her.  But that fact that it’s been two weeks means we’re two weeks healed.  It means we’ve moved forward two weeks…we’ve survived two weeks.  It means we’re two weeks closer to giving Hosanna a little brother or sister (however far away that may be).  I still miss her so much and no that will never go away no matter how many weeks pass.  This week was the hardest week since finding out we would lose Hosanna.

I tried going back to work on Monday, and it was way harder than I thought it was going to be.  I didn’t make it a full day at all this week.  I was worried before going back that I would be way sensitive to the kids hitting me or tantrumming, but it didn’t even have to get to that.  I cried in the car on the way to work.  I cried when I got to work.  I walked around like a zombie.  I couldn’t even play with the kids.  It was so hard just to be there.  I knew it was going to be hard, but it was nothing like I ever imagined.  I guess going back only one week after losing Hosanna was too soon.  But I think it may always be “too soon”…and I’m eventually going to have to do it some time or another.

When I first heard the news of Hosanna’s fatal condition, I felt as though God was testing me.  I was reminded of the story of Abraham and Isaac.  God asked Abraham to take his only son, Isaac (the one he had waited many, many years for), to the altar and sacrifice him.  God told Isaac to give his son to Him.  And Abraham was ready to obey.  Abraham took Isaac to the mountain and was prepared to sacrifice him to the Lord.  But when Abraham was about to kill Isaac, God sent a ram.  God told Abraham to stop, and to sacrifice the ram instead.  God honored Abraham’s faith and obedience by providing for him.  (Genesis 22)

I prayed that God would do the same for us.  I mean, I guess I didn’t expect a ram, but I was hoping that  God would heal Hosanna.  I thought if I was obedient to God, and was ready to give her up to Him, that maybe, just maybe He would heal her before we could really give her up.  That was really early in the process, and those were really fleeting thoughts.  I knew that God wasn’t going to send us a ram, but I really wanted one.

I tried bargaining with God saying, “If You heal her, I will tell all the world.  I will not be silent.  I will bring You glory.”  I knew this wasn’t what I needed to do, though.  I knew that I needed to glorify God even if He didn’t heal Hosanna.  And that is what I’m trying to do.  I want to bring glory through loving and trusting Him through this time.  I also want to glorify Him by being honest…honest with my anger and sadness.  He can handle it; He knows how I’m feeling anyway.  There’s no sense pretending I don’t have those feelings.  There’s no sense in trying to hide it.

God wants me (us) to be honest with Him.  He welcomes it.  But through this sadness and anger, I also am honest and know that He still loves me, and that I love Him.  I know this time will pass, and I know that He will restore us and bring joy back to our lives.  He will honor us and bless us with a healthy child, one day.  One day, He will.  One day…

One Week

February 12, 2010

It’s been one week since Hosanna was born and died.  I look at her pictures every day.  I imagine holding her every day.  I cry a little bit every day.  But still I feel myself slipping back into a sense of normalcy.  I’m able to laugh more and be silly more.  I’m so ready to feel normal again.  I will never forget Hosanna, and I don’t want to.  But I do want to be happy.  I do want to feel joy.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sad all the time.  There are moments of laughter and happiness.  But those are sandwiched between sadness and pain.  That’s what I want to go away.

I’m planning on going back to work on Monday.  I know I need to do it, but I’m scared.  If I had a job that wasn’t so emotionally draining, it wouldn’t be so bad.  But being a special education teacher has it’s own strains and stressors.   I’m nervous for the first time one of my students hits me or scratches me.  I’m nervous for the first tantrum I endure.  I’m nervous for the screaming.  These things are emotionally draining in and of themselves, but put on top of the emotional weakness I’m already experiencing….I’m nervous as to how I handle it.  I don’t want to break down in the middle of my classroom.  I don’t want to lose my patience with my students.  But I’m afraid I won’t be able to go back to the teacher I was.  I’ve been changed, forever changed, and I’m scared how that will affect me as a teacher.

I have amazing bosses and staff who care deeply for me, and I know they will support me and help me through it.  And for that I am incredibly thankful.  Going back to work will hopefully bring that sense of normalcy I’m looking for.  And maybe getting back to work will help keep my mind off of the sad things.  I just pray that I will be able to dedicate myself to my students in the way I did before.  I hope that I will be able to focus on things.  I will need God’s strength to help me get through the days, and I know He will help me.

It’s over. Or is it?

February 9, 2010

I have to say right now that I’m doing better than I thought I’d be doing right now.  After hearing the news of Hosanna’s condition two weeks ago today, I had thought that I’d be a total mess even now.  I am thankful that God has brought us this far.  This weekend, while it certainly brought its sadness and tears, brought with it a sense of relief.  All last week, Friday hung over our heads as an inevitability to be dreaded.  Right now, while I know there is much grieving yet to be done, I am thankful that this part of our journey is behind us.  It carries with it the possibility of moving on and of seeing better days ahead.

After my daughter’s birth this weekend, with the mental and emotional toll it took on me, I find myself exhausted and weary today.  I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, but I also find myself weary of grieving.  I’m tired of crying.  I’m tired of being sad.  There is a large part of me that wants to get beyond this as soon as possible and get on with our lives.  I want to feel like myself again.  I understand why a lot of people want to stuff their grief in a suitcase and sit on it.  But I know if I do that, it will come back when I put my guard down.  I want to escape, but I know I can’t.

As I face what uncertainties lie ahead, I take comfort in knowing that God, who, in the process of redemption, weaves good from evil and order from chaos, grants us the opportunity to do the same.  It’s been said that children can teach their parents as much as parents teach their children.  Hosanna, in two weeks, has gotten more people praying than I ever will, and has taught me more about how a love so strong can sometimes cause pain.  She has taught me what a wonderful, amazing, and faithful woman her mother is, and how I wouldn’t want to be going through such an awful time with anyone else.  And I’m sure there are many more things to learn along the way.

An unconventional blessing

February 9, 2010

They say that losing a child is one of the most devastating things one can endure.  Having experienced this loss, I believe that to be true.  Hosanna made me the happiest and saddest I’ve ever been.  How can something so small, something that has only existed for a few months have that strong of an impact on someone?  Hosanna has changed my life, and although I’m sad now, I hope that when I look back on this time with her, I will be remember the joy that she brought me.

God gave me a gift – a precious and amazing gift.  She may have just been with me for a short time, but I know that I wouldn’t trade that time.  That might sound strange for me to say, but I love her so much and there is no way I would say I wish I never knew her.  She is my baby, and even though I never got to rock her to sleep or feed her, I love her.  Even though I will never hear her cry or laugh, I love her.  I love her in a way I never knew possible.  I love her more than I love myself.  God chose to take her away from me, and I don’t know why.  But even so, I don’t regret loving her, I don’t regret all the moments I had with her inside me.  I don’t regret the physical pain of delivering her, and I don’t regret the tears I’ve cried for her.

Sure, I’m not going to say I don’t wish thing could’ve been different.  I’m not going to say I’m happy with the way things turned out.  But if I had to choose between this pain and never knowing Hosanna at all, I would choose the pain.  I’m not sure I would’ve said that two weeks ago, but now that I’ve made it through the worst part of this experience, I would say that I’m grateful for the blessing that Hosanna was…and is.  No, she’s not a conventional blessing (if there is such a thing), but she has taught me more about love, sacrifice, and selflessness than anyone or anything ever has, and quite possibly ever will.

Hosanna is singing!

February 7, 2010

Hosanna Elizabeth Dunn was born at 7:46 PM on Friday, February 5th. She weighs 10.8 ounces and is 9.5 inches in length. Sadly, she went to be with the Lord prior to delivery.  She had the sweetest little nose and ears.  She had tiny hands and feet, but long legs for her size (she must’ve gotten that from the Dunn side).  I loved everything about her especially her tiny little toes.

The hospital staff were absolutely amazing.  They were so kind and compassionate to us.  They were so comforting and helpful.  They even opened an unused room for our extended family to stay in during the day.  We were blown away by their kindness.  We could not have asked for more loving doctors and nurses.  They did everything they could to keep me (and everyone else) comfortable.  They wanted me to experience the least amount of physical pain possible.

During the delivery, a sense of peace was in the room.  The doctor was calm and just whispered to me.  After 19 hours of labor, the actual delivery lasted only about 6 minutes, and was relatively painless.  The atmosphere was sad but peaceful.  And although I would have loved to carry my baby forever to keep her alive, when she was born I had an overwhelming since of relief.

Although Jason and I were hoping for a few minutes Hosanna alive, I truly believe that God was being merciful on us for her to have passed before delivery.  I can imagine it being incredibly painful for her to pass in our arms.  We were able to spend almost 4 hours with her before we were ready to say “good bye”.  We all took turns holding her and kissing her and singing to her.  I believe she melted her daddy’s heart a little  :o), I know she melted mine.  It was so wonderful to have a few moments with her to hold her and to get a lifetime of love in.

I have an angel pendant with the February birthstone that I wear around my neck to carry her with me where ever I go.  She is our little angel, and she rejoicing with the other angels in heaven.  God has made her whole, He has given her a perfect little body.  We take comfort in knowing that she is receiving the utmost care, and that she is with God who loves her far more than we ever could.  We know when our time comes to go to heaven, she will be there waiting for us.  But until then she will help God watch over us, and she will never know pain or suffering.  She will never suffer a broken heart or a scraped knee.  When you think about it, she is truly blessed!  And so are we for getting to know her and care for her for the short time that we had.

Yes, we miss her terribly.  And yes, there are times when we still cry.  But we know that with each day it will get a little bit easier.  We know that she will never be replaced in our hearts – she will always be our first born.  Our sweet little Hosanna Elizabeth as made her mark in our hearts and she will never leave us.

A strange mix of emotions

February 3, 2010

This week has been very strange, as for the past few days we’ve sat in the void between the shock of learning our daughter’s condition and the day we’re being induced.  It’s an awful place to be.  I dread Friday so much, but I also hate the feeling of dreading Friday.  I know that better days lie ahead, on the other side of Friday, but I also know we have to go through Friday to get there.  To get relief, I must hurt.  To experience joy, I must be in sorrow.  To have life, I must face death.

In a matter of hours, the anticipation of the happiest moment of my life has been turned into the dread of the inevitable.  What was meant to be a joyous occasion has been turned into a bittersweet mix of emotions.  As I prepare for my daughter’s birth, I also prepare for her death.  Things are surely not right.  It’s a world turned upside down.

We’ve been at peace for the past few days, but as we’ve approached Friday, we’ve become more anxious.  We don’t want to face this day, but we know that we must face it no matter when it happens or how much we try to pretend it isn’t going to happen.  Thank God, the fear hasn’t frozen us, but they have been there.

As I pray, I am asking God that He’ll allow for the birth to go smoothly, that Julee will not experience much pain, and that she’ll be able to physically heal rather quickly.  It’s a strange difference from how I was praying a week ago.  Last week I was praying that this was all a mistake, that God would form a brain out of nothing.  While this is certainly within God’s reach, I’ve become more at peace over the past few days with the acceptance that this is not going to happen.  Julee and I have directed our faith toward believing that God, though He may not prevent this from happening, He will pull us through it.

Friends, you have all been wonderful in praying for us during this time and offering your support to us.  We humbly ask that you will be praying for us at some point during this time.  We’re going to the hospital on Thursday night to begin the process.

The song, “Deliver Me” by David Crowder Band has carried new meaning for me during this difficult time:

Deliver me out of the sadness
Deliver me from all the madness
Deliver me courage to guide me
Deliver me Your strength inside me

All of my life
I’ve been in hiding
Wishing there was someone just like You
Now that You’re here
Now that I’ve found You
I know that You’re the One to pull me through

Deliver me loving and caring
Deliver me giving and sharing
Deliver me this cross that I’m bearing

All of my life
I’ve been in hiding
Wishing there was someone just like You
Now that You’re here
Now that I’ve found You
I know that You’re the One to pull me through

Jesus, Jesus how I trust You
How I’ve proved You o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus

Deliver me
Come and pull me through
Come pull me through

The eye of the hurricane

February 1, 2010

For the past few days I have felt such peace.  I know that God has been with us through this whole experience.  It feels like an eternity since we received the news about our baby.  I am in such a better place than I ever imagined I would be.  This is a peace that passes all understanding.  Without Christ I know I would not have this peace.

Last night as I lie in my bed trying to sleep, I felt that feeling you feel when a storm is ending.  I almost began to let myself go to that feeling, but then it hit me – the storm is not over.  The best thing I can equate this to is the eye of a hurricane.  Part of the storm has already hit, but there is more storm to come.  I don’t know much about hurricanes, but I have heard that often the second part of the storm is worse.  I know that we have a big storm ahead of us, but at least we know it’s coming.

I’m reminded of the song by Casting Crowns titled “Praise You in the Storm”.  I have put some of the lyrics below, but I encourage you to listen to the song.

I was sure by now

God, You would have reached down

And wiped our tears away

Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain

“I’m with you”

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives

And takes away

I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

Every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

Jason and I have chosen to praise God through our storm.  We are praising God for the beautiful gift He has given us.  We have cried out that He take this cup from us, but He has not.  We have spent much time in prayer both individually, as a couple, and with our families.  We love our baby and we want her to be made whole.  Through God’s guidance through prayer, we have decided for Hosanna Elizabeth to be given to God earlier than expected.  We have wrestled with this, but we feel that God is with us in this.  We affirm life on earth, but more so we affirm eternal life.  And we feel God saying to us, “Give her to me and I will heal her and make her whole”.  God can love her far greater than we can.  The thing I want most for my baby girl is for her to be made whole.